Five Cook County, Illinois residents with disabilities recently filed a class action lawsuit who are living in nursing homes after being denied access to community services that would have allowed them to live in an integrated, community setting. Colbert v. Blagojevich (Case No. 2007 C 4737). The plaintiffs aren’t alleging there was any nursing home abuse or neglect, but rather that there was a violation of their rights.
All five of the plaintiffs are Cook County, Illinois residents that are eligible for Medicaid. All were living in private nursing homes that received state and federal funding. Plaintiffs believe that they could have been living in their own personal residences if they had been given the appropriate services. The plaintiffs alleged that the state of Illinois had denied them the benefits they would have received from various community services, specifically long-term care services and support in a community setting as opposed to the long-term, nursing home settings they were currently being offered. They further allege that these sorts of services would have given them the opportunity to live somewhere other than an institutionalized setting.
The class action alleged that by failing to provide these services that Illinois officials resulted in violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Social Security Act, and the Nursing Home Reform Act. By filing this class action, plaintiffs are hoping the court will require the defendants to:
(1) inform individuals with disabilities that they may be eligible for community-based services and have the choice of such services, (2) regularly provide assessments to determine eligibility for community-based services, and (3) promptly provide appropriate services and support to qualifying individuals in the community, creating a viable alternative to treatment in institutional settings.
In Illinois, the majority of funds for long-term care, approximately 80%, are dedicated to nursing homes and institutions. Furthermore, Illinois spends almost seven times more tax dollars on nursing home facilities for people with disabilities than it does on providing them with home or community care. Because home and community care programs are underfunded in Illinois there aren’t as many programs readily available as there are nursing homes. As a result people with disabilities are typically forced to turn to nursing home facilities to receive proper care because the community programs just don’t exist. In Cook County alone almost 20,000 people under the age of 65 and on Medicaid are living in nursing home facilities.
The Colbert case will most likely look to the precedent set by the case of Olmstead v. L.C. [527 U.S. 581 (1999)], where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that unnecessarily institutionalizing disabled people qualifies as discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, the Social Security Act mandates that states provide individuals with the opportunity to choose alternatives to institutional care, to provide services with reasonable promptness, and insure against the “unnecessary utilization” of institutional settings.
Kreisman Law Offices has been practicing nursing home abuse law in Illinois for over 30 years, serving Chicago,Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Barrington, Franklin Park, Oak Forest, and Tinley Park.
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