Utah Waiting List Suit Dismissed
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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Disability Law Center that claimed the state has not acted quickly enough to provide assistance to family members who care for disabled relatives rather than institutionalize them, which has resulted in a lengthy waiting list.For more coverage of the decision, see here and here.
The center filed suit in 2002 on behalf of individuals alleging, among other things, that the state did not have a formal plan to ease the ever-growing waiting list.
This slowness in providing help was, in essence, a form of discrimination because it violated several federal laws including those involving Medicaid and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the center claimed.
Utah has received federal permission to provide home- and community-based service under a waiver program that helps a limited number of people who meet certain criteria and who otherwise would most likely be institutionalized within a month.
But, in a ruling made public Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled that Utah does in fact have a plan to address the waiting list.
He also agreed with the state's argument that the individual plaintiffs do not fit the criteria for the waiver because they cannot show they are in imminent danger of being institutionalized.
"While the court is sympathetic to the hardships and frustrations experienced by plaintiffs and their families, the court concludes the plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they meet the 'essential eligibility requirements,' " for waiver services, the judge wrote.
Even if these individuals were in imminent danger of being put in an institution, they cannot show that state officials handle the waiver system in a way that intentionally discriminates against them personally or against other disabled people as a class, according to Kimball.
The judge also addressed the expense of accommodating those on the waiting list.
"While cost alone is not sufficient to establish a fundamental alteration/undue burden defense, a state can succeed by showing that the budget costs would compel cutbacks to others who receive necessary services and that the state has a comprehensive plan to moving eligible individuals out of institutions and providing home- and community-based services," he wrote.