Re: Fw: Returned mail: Service unavailable

Thomas Cagle (
Mon, 18 May 1998 08:58:51 -0400

On Sun, 17 May 1998 14:07:13 -0400 "Pete Eldredge" <>

>        Florida social welfare agencies, already reeling from legal 
>losses that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will be back 
>in court again, this time to face two legal challenges to the state's 
>community care for the disabled.
>        Advocates for the disabled filed two lawsuits in as many days, 
>both of them seeking to overhaul the state's policy toward 
>developmentally disabled Floridians who choose to live at home or in 
>the community. The number of people covered by the lawsuits, which have 
>been filed as class-actions, could be between 9,000 and 20,000.
>        The purpose of the lawsuits is to allow disabled people to live 
>in their own homes, rather than more costly institutions, with the help 
>of taxpayer-supported services. Such services might include wheelchairs,
>home health care, adult incontinence aids and physical therapy.
>        The parents of two disabled adults, Lisa Montalvo, 24, and John 
>Montalvo, 20, for example, were told their children could not receive 
>preventive dental care. As a result, Lisa already has lost two teeth. 
>"The only dental care (the state) will authorize is the extraction of 
>all her teeth," one of the suits alleges.
>        "Too often, children are forced to be institutionalized in 
>costly and segregated environments," said Pat Wear, who heads the 
>Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, which filed one of the 
>lawsuits. "This is irrational when we have the tools available to 
>preserve families and promote inclusion."
>        Lisa Hutcheson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and

>Families, declined to specifically discuss the suits, which the agency 
>has not seen.=20
>        But Hutcheson noted Florida remains 49th in the nation for money

>spent on developmental disabilities. "It's all about money," Hutcheson 
>said. "Where are the funds to meet the needs of people with 
>developmental disabilities?"
>        Lawmakers this year ordered the agency to begin negotiating a 
>solution to the problem, which has already sparked more than a 
>half-dozen lawsuits. "We're hoping to bring a lot of this to a 
>resolution," Hutcheson said.
>        Teresa Harry, a 31-year-old North Miami Beach woman with 
>cerebral palsy, is one of four people named as plaintiffs in one of the
>suits, filed Thursday by a Miami law firm that has successfully sued the

>state on behalf of disabled people who are waiting for a bed in a 
>private institution.
>        Harry has been forced to do without several services, the suit 
>alleges, including an emergency call button. Harry slipped while 
>reaching for the telephone recently, landing on her stomach on the 
>floor. "I had to lie there on my stomach until someone came in the 
>next morning," Harry said.
>        "If I had an emergency response button, if I needed someone, 
>all I'd have to do is push a button. They don't seem to think I'm
>They're putting my life in danger."
>        Developmental disabilities include mental retardation, cerebral 
>palsy, autism and a few less common impairments. The Department of 
>Children and Families estimates that about 9,000 Floridians who suffer 
>from such conditions are on a waiting list to receive some form of 
>medical care, therapy or equipment.
>        The state already has lost two lawsuits challenging the care 
>given to disabled people who wish to live in a public or private 
>institution. An estimated 2,176 Floridians live in such an environment.
>        Harry, like many who suffer from developmental disabilities, is 
>eligible for Medicaid, the joint state and federal program that pays 
>medical bills for the needy. Through a federal program called the Home 
>and Community-Based Waiver, Medicaid will pay for Harry's care at home 
>so she can avoid living in a more costly institution.
>        Advocates insist that denying the disabled necessary services 
>is inherently discriminatory, because the medically needy, such as 
>diabetics, or those suffering from heart ailments, are not asked to do 
>without. In Florida, the disabled are routinely asked to give up one 
>service in order to pay for another.
>         Copyright 1998 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.