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Waiting List Lawsuit Filed Against Commonwealth
May 31, 2002

On May 30 the PA Waiting List Campaign and Community Advocacy Coalition (CAC) filed a Federal Class Action Lawsuit against the Commonwealth on behalf of children and adults with mental retardation who are on waiting lists for community services. These advocacy coalitions believe that Governor Schweiker's proposed budget reneged on Governor Ridge's pledge to address the needs of the estimated 28,000 plus Pennsylvanians waiting for MR services and supports. The current Governor's budget proposed a 30% cut of the funding originally promised for Fiscal Year 2002-2003, which is the third year of Governor Ridge's five-year Waiting List Initiative. The budget has not yet been voted on by the legislature. Attorneys for this lawsuit are Ilene Shane of the Disabilities Law Project and private attorneys Stephen A. Whinston and Stephen Gold.

PCPA agrees with the MH/MR Administrators that this could turn into an important suit that will affect us all for years to come. We also agree that the next Administration will bear the burden of settling the lawsuit and it could take years to do so. Here are some other points made by Mike Chambers of that association, in their weekly "Bullets."

  • Persons on the waiting list who have not been determined eligible for waiver services and enrolled in a waiver are not covered by the waiver entitlement.
  • That leaves us to consider the Medical Assistance entitlement to services that are direct vendor payments. Yes, that means ICF/MR. As you know, those include state facilities as well as the private institutions and even some "group homes" that aren't funded with waiver dollars. Notice that the issue suddenly focuses on residential services.
  • ICF/MR is also medical in nature (like a nursing home) and eligibility standards apply. Those standards have been "loose" for a long time. They can be considerably tightened, to control cost, without the need for any legislation. The state has some discretion, here. These standards have been the basis for all of our waiver programs.
  • If the entitlement becomes one that says that any eligible person has a right to ICF/MR, then the easiest, cheapest way to control costs is to reduce the number of people who are eligible.
  • We have spent years downsizing MR Centers and private institutions. Once a person is admitted to a state MR institution, that person has the right (Olmstead) to choose services and supports in a community setting, whether the resources to support the person exist or not. (think staff).

PCPA will follow the progress of the lawsuit and will keep members informed of its implications for providers and consumers.

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