By Mother Jones
The Justice Department Monday sued the state of Florida over its longstanding practice of housing medically fragile and disabled children in geriatric nursing homes, alleging that the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint has been a long time in coming. DOJ started investigating Florida’s treatment of medically fragile and disabled kids in late 2011. Its been warning the state ever since that if it didn’t change its practices and find a way for these kids to be cared for at home with their families or in better settings in the community, it would file suit and force the state to act.
Tea party-dominated Florida has been extremely reluctant to spend any money to provide care for this vulnerable population of children. The state even went so far as to turn down $37.5 million in federal money that would help move children out of nursing homes, all because the money was seen as part of Obamacare. Not even the threat of a civil rights lawsuit, apparently, was enough to get the state to do more.
Monday’s complaint was signed by Thomas Perez, the head of DOJ’s civil rights division who is now taking over as US secretary of labor. During his time at the civil rights division, Perez has been quietly but firmly pushing states to deinstitutionalize the mentally disabled and medically fragile. Under his leadership, the Obama administration has been the first presidential administration to systematically use the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. LC to advocate for this vulnerable population. That decision bans states from segregating disabled people in institutions or other settings.