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ACLU of Indiana files suit against FSSA

Statement as issued Monday:

Changes to Medicaid Waiver program put Hoosiers "at grave risk of immediate and irreparable harm."

Five days a week, 27 year-old Karla Steimel, who has cerebral palsy and other medical conditions, is transported to work at a facility that enables disabled people such as herself to be productive and happy members of the community. But because of changes in Indiana’s Medicaid home and community based waiver programs that have been rolled out over the past couple of years, in the next couple of weeks, Steimel will be at risk of losing her independence and being placed in an institution.

Last Friday, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration challenging the way in which the agency operates two of its Medicaid waiver programs, the Community Integration and Habilitation Waiver (CIH) and the Aged and Disabled Waiver (A&D). The programs, which serve thousands of Hoosiers, offer services that enable people like Steimel to live in their communities even though their disabling conditions would otherwise require that they be institutionalized.

Regarding the class-action lawsuit, which may help thousands of Hoosiers, ACLU of Indiana Staff Attorney Gavin Rose said, "the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires that states provide services to individuals with disabilities in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs. Right now, Indiana is not living up to that mandate."

FSSA’s CIH Waiver (formerly known as the Developmental Disabilities Waiver) historically has maintained a lengthy wait-list that often delayed services to needy individuals for 10 to 15 years. In the fall of 2012, FSSA eliminated the wait-list and began offering services only to people who meet certain restrictive "priority criteria." Many people who once would have been eligible to receive services through the program can never become eligible under the new rules.

Also, FSSA recently determined that people with developmental disabilities may no longer receive services through its A&D Waiver unless they also possess so-called "skilled medical needs"-- like suctioning, ventilation, or medication administration -- that require the assistance of a registered nurse.

Steimel, who does not require skilled nursing services but instead needs daily assistance with basic tasks such as eating, bathing and moving about, has received services through the A&D Waiver for approximately eight years. She has also been on the wait-list for the CIH Waiver for more than a decade. In January 2013, Steimel received a letter from FSSA informing her that she is only eligible for a smaller waiver program. The change will cut her benefits from 160 to 40 hours per month, and will eliminate her ability to travel to her daily job where she performs basic administrative tasks.

The lawsuit alleges that the agency’s policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The suit seeks to reinstate the wait-list for placement on the CIH Waiver and eliminate the "priority criteria" requirement that would likely result in drastically reduced care for thousands of people. It also seeks to compel FSSA to provide notice and an opportunity for applicants to appeal the elimination of their place on the wait-list and to provide sufficient slots for the wait-list to move at a reasonable pace.

Karla Steimel, et al. v. Minott, et al., Case no. 1:13-cv-957-JMS-MJD, was filed June 14 in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

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