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State settles lawsuit over placement of disabled

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By James Vaznis
Globe Staff / March 21, 2008

More than 600 mentally retarded or developmentally disabled individuals will leave nursing homes in the next four years, to live more independently in an apartment, family home, or group setting, state officials announced yesterday.

Their exodus is a key part of a settlement the Patrick administration reached with advocates for the disabled in a 10-year-old case in which plaintiffs argued that the nursing home placements violated federal mandates, including a requirement that they be in the most integrated setting appropriate for their care. Many were placed in nursing homes even though they are significantly younger than the senior citizens the facilities are designed to serve, reducing their quality of life and contribution to society, the suit contended.

"This is great," said Jean McGuire, assistant secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services. "This will accelerate further development of community-based services for people with mental retardation or developmental disabilities."

The department, she said, is calculating the cost of caring for these adults in their own residences or group homes.

Services the state will provide to the individuals in their new homes include personal care assistants, nurses, and physical therapists. Many also will have access to recreational activities, educational opportunities, and job training.

The settlement is the second resolution in the case, which was named after Loretta Rolland, a disabled Agawam woman and lead plaintiff in a case filed in 1998 in US District Court on behalf of 1,600 people. It was pushed by Arc Massachusetts (formerly the Association of Retarded Citizens Massachusetts) and the Center for Public Representation, based in Northampton and Newton respectively. Neither group could be reached for comment yesterday.

Initially, the case placed more than a thousand people in community-based housing and care between 2000 and 2007. But more than 700 people remained in nursing homes. The state said it could provide appropriate services for them there, but advocates disagreed and contested in court.

Patrick, an advocate of community-based care, pushed for a resolution. The state will move more than a hundred people a year over the next four years.

The settlement will leave roughly 100 individuals in nursing homes because of age, condition, or circumstances, McGuire said.

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