For Immediate Release — July 13, 2000
Laguna Honda Hospital Residents Sue for Right to Live in Community
San Francisco, California — Ten plaintiffs will be filing a class action lawsuit in United States District Court on July 12, 2000, seeking access to community-based long-term care services to avoid unnecessary institutionalization in nursing facilities. The lawsuit alleges that the City and County of San Francisco, as well as several state agencies, are discriminating against people with disabilities by failing to utilize existing Medicaid funding and other funding sources for home and community-based services, instead committing the vast majority of available funding to institutional care. A de facto policy bias toward institutional care persists at the expense of home and community based alternatives.
A press conference will be held at:
- San Francisco’s City Hall (Goodlett Place (Polk) steps)
- Thursday, July 13, 2000 at 10:00am
The class-action lawsuit will be announced against the City and County of San Francisco and the following state agencies: California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Health Services, Department of Social Services, Department of Developmental Services, Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Aging.
The plaintiffs reside at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, or are at risk of institutionalization there, and represent a class of people in the same situation. Laguna Honda is a 1200-bed nursing institution, the largest of its kind in the United States. Plaintiffs complain of being warehoused and isolated from their own communities. They have been given no option but to remain institutionalized, where the loss of dignity is their chief complaint.
“My mother is miserable at Laguna Honda Hospital watching other people die,” said Leeann Bishop, who has been trying unsuccessfully to get her mother out of Laguna Honda since 1992. Yet “all she needs is nursing assistance and accessible housing,” she said.
Millions of Americans need some form of long term assistance with routine, daily living tasks such as bathing, dressing, eating, shopping, cooking and housework. Others also need home health care, including nursing or hospice care. The overwhelming majority prefer to stay out of institutions.
Developments in Medicaid laws and a recent United States Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. confirm the right of people with disabilities who need long term care to choose to receive the services they need in their own homes and communities instead of in an institution. It is against the law to deny people this right and to force them into institutions as the only alternative.
The Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) joins the lawsuit as an organizational plaintiff. ILRC is a non-profit service and advocacy organization for San Franciscans with disabilities.
“It is fundamental to the mission of ILRC that NOBODY ever needs to live in an institution if there are appropriate and accessible services provided in the community,” according to Kathy Uhl, Executive Director of ILRC. “We have chosen to sign on to this litigation because we are fully aware that there is nothing that is provided within the four walls of an institution that cannot be provided in the community. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law ten years ago this month. It’s time the law was followed,” said Uhl.
Plaintiffs are represented by a coalition of disability rights organizations including: Protection and Advocacy, Inc. in Oakland, California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California, National Senior Citizens Law Center, in Los Angeles, California, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, in Washington, D.C. and the Law Offices of Andrew Thomas Sinclair in Oakland, California.
Summary of Complaint
Ten plaintiffs have filed a class action lawsuit in U. S. District Court seeking access to community-based long-term care services to avoid unnecessary institutionalization in nursing facilities. (Davis et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services et al. U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. _____)
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, July 12, 2000, alleges that the City of County of San Francisco, as well as several State agencies, are violating several federal statutes in failing to provide long-term care for individuals who would prefer to live at home in their communities rather than be institutionalized.
The lawsuit cites several federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Nursing Home Reform Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act if 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that institutionalizing individuals with disabilities, when home and community based care would meet their needs constitutes a violation of the ADA. (Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 1999).
The plaintiffs reside at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, or are at risk of institutionalization there, and represent a class of people in the same situation. Laguna Honda is a 1200-bed nursing institution.
The Independent Living Resource Center, a non-profit service and advocacy organization that assists people to secure the services they need to live independently in the community. The mission of ILRC, which assists San Franciscans with disabilities, is thwarted by a striking lack of community-based long-term care services in San Francisco.
The City and County of San Francisco, as well as the California Health and Human Services Agency, the Department of Health Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Aging all of which play a role in failing to provide home and community based care are the defendants.
The Legal Theory
Plaintiffs allege that, to end the discrimination against them and provide adequate community-based care, defendants must conduct adequate assessments, identify the long-term care needs of those they serve, and determine whether their needs can be met in an integrated, community-based setting.
They allege that defendants often do not even inform eligible persons of the availability of alternatives to institutional care and certainly do not allow them to choose home and community-based alternatives.
Plaintiffs ask the court to order the defendants to develop new and make use of existing community-based, non-institutional alternatives for long-term care.
Plaintiffs are represented by a coalition of disability rights organizations includeing Protection and Advocacy, Inc. in Oakland, California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. in Berkeley, California, the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles, California, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C. and the Law Offices of Andrew Thomas Sinclair.