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Lawsuit Alleges Ohio Fails People with Developmental Disabilities

Advocates say community-based supports help people with developmental disabilities live meaningful lives close to home. (Pixabay)
Advocates say community-based supports help people with developmental disabilities live meaningful lives close to home. (Pixabay)
April 1, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A class-action lawsuit filed Thursday accuses Ohio and several agencies of failing some individuals with disabilities.

The plaintiffs, including Disability Rights Ohio, argue that the way the state pays for services and treatment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities forces too many to receive those services in institutional settings.

Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, director of advocacy and assistant executive director of Disability Rights Ohio, said the suit contends that by not providing enough community-based services, the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"While we would have hoped to resolve this without having to take legal action, it's become necessary to do so in order to get these real options for people with developmental disabilities," she said. "We hope we'll be able to maybe even start a dialogue with the state to correct these problems."

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities also was named in the suit, and a spokesperson there said on Thursday that Disability Rights Ohio has declined to meet with state officials in recent weeks to discuss options, and that the department is working with providers to expand community-based options.

Sjoberg-Witt said about 5,800 Ohioans with intellectual and developmental disabilities live in institutions and more than 40,000 are on waiting lists to receive supports in the community. She said they deserve services that allow them to live meaningful and productive lives as fully integrated members of society.

"Someone with a developmental disability might need to have a direct-care person coming into their home and helping them with activities of daily living, or they might need nursing services or other supports," she said. "They might also need transportation, or they might need help getting a job and support at the job."

The goal of the lawsuit, she said, is to increase opportunities for community-based supports, not cut services or shut down any institutions.

The text of the lawsuit is online at disabilityrightsohio.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH