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From Health Law Daily, December 17, 2013

State closes two developmental centers, relocates patients

By Greg Hammond, JD

The District of New Jersey dismissed a complaint seeking to prevent New Jersey from closing two state-run developmental centers and moving the residents to different treatment facilities. The claims, which were brought by 35 developmentally disabled residents of the centers, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), the Social Security Act (SSA), and the U.S. Constitution (Sciarrillo v Christie, December 13, 2013, Chesler, S).

Background. New Jersey made the decision to close two state-run residential care facilities for developmentally disabled people: Woodbridge Developmental Center and North Jersey Developmental Center. Residents were given the choice to: (1) relocate to a community placement facility such as a small group home, nursing home, or similar setting; or (2) be placed in a different Developmental Center that is over 100 miles away. Residents brought an action to prevent their relocation and the closing of the Woodbridge and North Jersey centers.

ADA and RA claims. Under 42 U.S.C. sec. 12132, public entities are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and denying such individuals the benefits of services, programs, or activities of the public entity due to disability. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court previously set forth in theirOlmstead v L.C. ex rel. Zimring decision that a public entity violates the ADA and RA by forcing developmentally disabled patients to live in institutions when they are “able and willing” to reside in more “integrated community settings.”

Pursuant to the ADA, RA, and Olmstead decision, the residents took the stance that New Jersey could not close the two facilities until: (1) all residents consented to the transfer; and (2) a treatment professional concluded that a different facility would be “the most appropriate place to receive services.” However, the court determined that the Olmstead decision did not support the residents’ argument, as the decision to relocate the residents did not amount to discrimination on the basis of disability. Since the residents failed to allege actionable discrimination on the basis of disability, the court was required to dismiss the residents’ ADA and RA claims.

Medicaid claim. The residents also claimed that New Jersey violated numerous Medicaid provisions of the SSA. However, only 42 U.S.C. secs. 1396a(a)(10) and 1396d(a)(15) were found to be possibly enforceable under the 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 private cause of action. Section 1396a(a)(10) requires states to make medical assistance available to all eligible individuals. Further, section 1396d(a)(15) requires states to provide a minimum of “some” medical assistance payments for developmentally disabled individuals receiving care in intermediate care facilities. However, the court found that residents did not allege medical assistance was not being made available to them, or that the state failed to pay for intermediate care facilities like the two developmental centers being closed. As such, the court was required to dismiss the residents’ Medicaid claim.

Due process claim. The residents’ final claim was that their substantive due process rights were violated by New Jersey when the state made the decision to close the developmental centers and relocate the residents. However, the court noted that the constitutional substantive due process rights, which the residents claimed they had, arose from situations where states confined individuals at a government facility against their will, as opposed to the instant case where residents voluntarily received state-provided services. As such, the residents’ due process claim failed to allege a proper substantive due process right, and the claim was consequently dismissed.

The case number is 13-03478 (SRC).

Attorneys: Thomas A. Archer (Mette Evans & Woodside) for Rosemary Sciarrillo. Gerard Andrew Hughes, Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, for Christopher Christie, New Jersey Department of Human Services, North Jersey Developmental Center, and Woodbridge Developmental Center.

Companies: New Jersey Department of Human Services; North Jersey Developmental Center; Woodbridge Developmental Center

MainStory: TopStory CaseDecisions LTCHNews MedicaidNews NewJerseyNews

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