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December 1, 2015Alerts

Lawsuit Filed to Access Community-Based Services for Adults with Autism

Harrisburg, PA – The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN) announced today that it has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three individuals with autism and mental illness against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) for violations of federal Medicaid law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, because plaintiffs are institutionalized and cannot access community-based autism waiver services.

“Adults with Autism should have the right to live within their own communities,” said Kelly Darr, DRN’s Legal Director.  “This case is about preventing unnecessary institutionalization and improving the Adult Autism Waiver system in Pennsylvania.”

Stephen Kline is a 25-year-old with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and mood disorders and he is deaf.  Mr. Kline has been eligible for release from jail since May 2015, but he remains incarcerated because there are no appropriate community supports and services to which he can be discharged.  Without such services, he will be homeless.  Mr. Kline has an entitlement to receive services in a small, community-based Intermediate Care Facility for Other Related Conditions (ICF/ORC), but no such services are available.  Mr. Kline also has been placed on a waiting list for the Adult Autism Waiver.  Mr. Kline has remain institutionalized unnecessarily since becoming eligible for release in May 2015.

Gabriel Gamble is a 30-year-old man with diagnoses of ASD and schizoaffective disorder.  Mr. Gamble has been recommended for discharge from Torrance State Hospital since March 2015, but needs a residential placement and remains institutionalized due to a lack of placements for him.  No community-based ICF/ORC services are available and Mr. Gamble is effectively excluded from the Adult Autism Waiver because he is in a state hospital.

Matthew Christy is a 26-year-old man with diagnoses of ASD and bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and impulse control disorder.  Mr. Christy has been recommended for discharge from Warren State Hospital since August 2013, but remains at the institution because he needs a residential placement and, like Mr. Gamble, he does not have access to either ICF/ORC or Adult Autism Waiver services.

DRN alleges that plaintiffs are entitled to receive services in small, integrated ICFs/ORC, but that no such services are available in violation of federal Medicaid law.   DRN also alleges that DHS’s structure of the Adult Autism Waiver violates the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act by subjecting individuals to unnecessary institutionalization.

“Individuals with autism and co-occurring mental health diagnoses should not be forced to remain unnecessarily institutionalized because there are no community-based services available to meet their needs,” said Ms. Darr.  “We hope this lawsuit will address that problem.”

The Disability Rights Network (DRN) is the statewide protection and advocacy agency for Pennsylvanians with disabilities.  DRN protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities so that they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and segregation.