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Young Man With Severe Disabilities Wins Right to Services From State Enabling Him to Live At Home
Date:6/30/2008

Equip for Equality Obtains Federal Injunction Against the State for Violation of the ADA's Integration Mandate

CHICAGO, June 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following two years of federal court litigation under the ADA's "integration mandate," Equip for Equality has obtained a permanent injunction to enable its client, David Grooms, to receive services he needs to remain in his home. The order overturned a decision by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services ("HFS") to cut more than half of David's Medicaid benefits when he turned twenty-one-years old. U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ordered the agency's Director, Barry Maram, to restore "immediately" the level of skilled nursing services provided to David prior to his 21st birthday.

David Grooms has a rare progressive neuromuscular disease called Glycogen Storage Disease. As his 21st birthday approached, he was dependent on a ventilator 24 hours a day, had quadriplegia, heart disease, and severe osteoporosis. But with the help of nursing care provided under the Medicaid system, David was able to live at home with the support of his parents, friends and extended family. Through hard work, David graduated from high school. His 21st birthday should have been a great milestone for a young man who had already faced so many challenges. But for David and his family, it also heralded distress and panic.

At 21, David, like others in his situation, had aged out of the Medicaid "waiver" program that the State had invoked to provide him with home services. A State physician had certified that all of David's services were medically necessary and cost neutral to the State, yet, on his 21st birthday, HFS reduced David's benefits by more than half. The decision left him with dangerously reduced nursing services, which placed David, whose condition then worsened, at risk of institutionalization.

David's parents struggled to fill in the gaps. His father sacrificed sleep to sit at his son's bedside at night. Ultimately, he had to leave the work force entirely to care for David. This meant going without health insurance despite his own heart condition, as well as the depletion of his modest retirement savings to pay for basic necessities such as medicine for his seriously ill wife.

"By setting a cap on benefits for David's home care at a nursing home level, despite his medical needs, HFS placed David and his family on the edge of a precipice," said Karen Ward, Equip for Equality's Senior Counsel and attorney for David Grooms. "That decision, however, violated the ADA, so we sued. We hope this decision will convince HFS to change how it provides services for people aging out of the children's waiver."

The Supreme Court has held that the ADA requires that the State deliver services to persons with disabilities in the most integrated environment. The failure to do so, absent a fundamental alteration to the State's programs, violates federal law.

Judge Pallmeyer agreed that David's rights had been violated. She rejected the State's contentions that serving David's rare and complex medical needs would necessitate providing equivalent costly services to persons with far lesser needs. In so doing, she upheld David's right to live in the community. The State could, in fact, provide services to him at less than the cost of serving him in a comparable institutional setting which, for David, would be a hospital rather than a nursing home.

"This is a great day for people with disabilities who have complex medical needs and who want to be part of the world like everyone else," said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "The State's decision to strip this family of the resources they had relied upon to care for David, daring them to sacrifice everything or lose him to an institution or death, was not only unlawful, it was shameful."

"There is nothing we would not do for our son, including demanding that the State provide the services he needs to lead an independent and full life," said Curtis Grooms, David's father. "Equip for Equality helped us do that and we will be forever grateful."

Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit legal advocacy organization designated by the governor as the Protection and Advocacy System to safeguard the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. Copies of the Complaint and the Judge's decision can be found at http://www.equipforequality.org

Reference: Grooms v. Maram

U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Case No. 06 CV 2211

CONTACTS: Karen I. Ward

Senior Counsel

312.895.7330

Laura Miller

Managing Attorney

312.895.7316


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SOURCE Equip for Equality, Inc.
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