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Lawsuit: Private Duty Nursing Cuts Violate Civil Rights

November 10, 2008

Nashville, TN – For some 1,000 Tennesseans and their families, the economic crisis is hitting home. The Tenncare Bureau is cutting in-home health care to people with serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and quadriplegia. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of 22 of these people say the cuts will force them into nursing homes and amount to a civil rights violation.

Plaintiff Dylan Brown works at the Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee. He says these cuts will be a setback for those who want to be productive members of society.

"If you want to try to live independently, live on your own outside of a nursing home, and try to self-direct your own care when needed, resources like Tenncare and private-duty nursing are essential."

The lawsuit says the cuts violate the Americans with Disabilities Act because the action unfairly segregates people into institutions. Brown says the state's track record on operation of nursing homes is not good, and people who go into them will be at greater risk for new medical problems that they wouldn't face at home.

"There's a high likelihood for infection, a high likelihood for bedsores, and all sorts of other issues that go along with there being only a certain number of staff people who are trying to take care of a large population."

Brown says Tennessee has long ranked at the bottom nationally when it comes to home and community-based care, and points out that this year Governor Phil Bredesen said more must be done.

However, the state's response to the lawsuit says Tenncare simply cannot sustain the rising costs of those services.

Barbara Dab/Steve Powers, Public News Service - TN