The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, claiming its policies and practices leave many parents with no practical choice but to house their disabled children in nursing homes.
The civil rights division of the DOJ accused Florida officials of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by funding its community health programs so poorly that hundreds of children are forced to live in geriatric institutions, often far from home.
Reimbursement rates paid by the state to community service providers have remained flat since 1987, according to the lawsuit, while rates paid to nursing homes for housing children have risen by nearly 30 percent to $550 per day.
Three years ago, Florida lawmakers cut $6 million from a program that provided private nursing care for those outside institutions. Another program to assist parents in caring for disabled children close to home has a wait list of 22,000 individuals.
Children are far more likely to face abuse in nursing homes than at home or in community settings. A Miami nursing home faced over $300,000 in fines and eventually shut down its pediatric wing after two disabled children died there in less than a year. And Lakeshore Villas in Tampa recently closed after federal officials cut off Medicare payments amid allegations of neglect and isolation of disabled children living there. That was the second nursing home accepting children to close in 2013. Just four remain.