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Disability Advocates Settle Suit With State Over Access To Community Services

In March 2016, Disability Rights Ohio Executive Director Michael Kirkman announces the lawsuit against the state. He was joined by some of those who were part of the lawsuit, including Caryl Mason, in purple, next to her sister, Cathy Mason-Jordan.
In March 2016, Disability Rights Ohio Executive Director Michael Kirkman announces the lawsuit against the state. He was joined by some of those who were part of the lawsuit, including Caryl Mason, in purple, next to her sister, Cathy Mason-Jordan.

A disability rights group has settled the class action lawsuit it filed against the state of Ohio three years ago over its claims that people are being needlessly institutionalized in state and private run facilities. 

The settlement expands access to 700 state-funded waivers through Medicaid that allow people with disabilities and their families to choose to receive services in the community or in institutions.

Disability Rights Ohio filed the suit in federal court in 2016, after saying it had been negotiating with the state for two years. Its executive director Michael Kirkman said this affects the six original plaintiffs, and since it’s a class action, there are potentially 3,000 more.

“These folks are generally very pleased because they have been expressing a desire to move to the community for some time and have not been able to get services," said Kirkman.

Among those in the suit is Caryl Mason. Her sister Cathy Mason-Jordan said Caryl is 46 years old, is non-verbal and in a wheelchair and lives in a group home with seven other residents. But Mason-Jordan said she’s often left alone or put into group activities that she doesn’t enjoy, and she hoped that Caryl would have a choice where to receive services. “This dream is a dream for all of our loved ones with special needs," Mason-Jordan said when the suit was filed in 2016.

There are no monetary damages in the suit. The state will spend $24 million in the next year on housing assistance, and the settlement also expands employment and day services.

The Department of Developmental Disabilities said in a statement the settlement is “fair and reasonable”.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.