DOJ determines Colorado illegally segregates people with disabilities

Colorado regularly boasts of being a healthy state. A state website brags its residents have “some of the best stats around for health and wellness.”

“In fact, Colorado’s working-age adults are healthier than their counterparts in most other states,” the state claims. “It’s because we’re surrounded by opportunities to engage with the world around us and the people that share the same values.”

However, all is not good in the mountain state, as the Department of Justice has determined the state led by Gov. Jared Polis is illegally segregating people with physical disabilities in nursing homes.

That violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The DOJ announced this week it has written a letter to Polis explaining the state’s failure to ensure “the rights of individuals with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in society.”

“We have determined that Colorado is violating the ADA by administering its long-term care system in a way that unnecessarily segregates individuals with physical disabilities in nursing facilities and places others with physical disabilities at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization,” the letter threatens.

It then explains what the state should do “to meet its legal obligations and remedy the violations the department has identified.”

The main problem is that the state has failed to see that those who have an “adverse medical event,” or enter a care home for rehabilitation or other reason, which should be temporary, have an opportunity to return to their home and community.

It’s because they are unable to access the support they need to leave, and live independently, or are never connected with the services they need to live in the community.

“We have concluded the state is failing to serve individuals with physical disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs,” the letter said. “Unnecessary institutionalization is common in Colorado despite several programs to help adults with physical disabilities remain in, or transition back to, their own homes and communities.”

The state needs right now to provide more information about alternatives to a nursing facility care, help with those transitions, expand services in its communities and help integrate housing opportunities.

The investigation actually was launched by the federal government in 2018 based on complaints it received about the state’s failures.

The goal would be to encourage and help those who are capable of living outside of nursing homes with the programs to allow that.

But the state isn’t.

Instead, it “plans, administers and funds its long-term care system in a manner that unnecessarily segregates many individuals with physical disabilities in nursing facilities,” even if “community-based services would be appropriate.”

“The Supreme Court has held that unnecessary segregation is a form of discrimination that the ADA prohibits,” the letter to Polis said. “The ADA’s integration mandate applies to individuals with disabilities in institutions, and to those at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization.”

The DOJ said the state’s operations under Polis deny to “many Coloradans” “a meaningful choice to receive the services they need in their own homes and communities.”

“People with disabilities have too often been unlawfully segregated in institutions like nursing facilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the rights of people with physical disabilities, including older adults, to access the community-based services they need to age in place and thrive at home.”

Cole Finegan, U.S. attorney for Colorado, added, “Older Coloradans and Coloradans with physical disabilities increasingly expect to remain at home as their support needs increase. I’m hopeful this situation can be remedied so that individuals with physical disabilities are no longer isolated.”

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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