The San Francisco Chronicle reported that governor Rick Scott of Florida has decided to dump more than 3,300 children with disabilities into adult nursing homes because the state is slashing nursing and other services that would otherwise keep them at home with their families. A lawsuit was filed to stop the transfers. The lawsuit mirrors a letter sent this week by federal officials to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi alleging the state is violating federal law by allowing more than 200 children with disabilities and even babies to be kept in nursing homes, often for years.
Children languish in facilities, sharing common areas with elderly patients and having few interactions with others, rarely leaving the nursing homes or going outside. Investigators noted the children are not exposed to social, educational and recreational activities that are critical to child development. Educational opportunities are limited to as little as 45 minutes a day, according to a detailed letter by U.S. Department of Justice officials. Investigators also said Florida is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and is infringing on the children’s civil rights by segregating and isolating them. The average length of stay is three years.
“These kids who are institutionalized in geriatric nursing homes are receiving less services than kids in prison,” said Paolo Annino, a law professor at Florida State University.
The state turned down nearly $40 million in federal dollars for a program that transitions people from nursing homes back into the community. The state has also been paying community-based providers less, reducing payments by 15 percent last year because of legislative budget cuts. Yet the state implemented policies that expanded nursing home care, by offering facilities a $500 enhanced daily rate for caring for children, which is more than double than what the state pays for adults.