Mentally disabled sue Tenn. over cuts to home care

Friday, July 8, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 27

NASHVILLE (AP) — A group of 39 disabled Tennesseans is suing the state over cuts to in-home care services they say will force them from their homes.

The state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities announced in June it would restrict one-on-one nursing services to 12 hours per day and personal assistance services to 215 hours per month, which equals about 7 hours per day.

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville on Monday claims the cuts violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal protections by forcing the disabled into segregated group homes, according to The Tennessean.

"You're segregating individuals in either homes of two or three, and that violates the ADA and doesn't keep them in the most integrated community setting, which in this case, is with their families, who have committed their lives to taking care of these folks," said Lenny Croce, an attorney with Legal Aid, which is handling the lawsuit. "They need a little help to do that, but they're going to be there with commitment and care and love."

The plaintiffs range in age from 7 to 52 and have a range of physical and mental ailments.

One of them is 35-year-old Christopher Hughes, who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour-a-day care.

His mother, Cathy Hughes, said the cuts could mean her son would have to move more than an hour away from their Campbell County home.

"Can you imagine having to take your child out of your home?" she said. "Chris wants to be home."

Missy Marshall, spokeswoman for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said the state would not comment on the suit until it could consult with the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.

The agency had to cut more than $10 million from its budget and officials have said the alternative to limiting care is to eliminate people from the program altogether.