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Legal Aid Files Lawsuit Against DHS

The Department of Human Services has unjustifiably and arbitrarily cut Medicaid services for two individuals with severe disabilities, putting them at risk of having to leave their homes and go to nursing facilities. In response, the two individuals, Bradley Ledgerwood of Cash, 34 years old, and Ethel Jacobs of West Helena, 90 years old, have filed a federal lawsuit against DHS on the grounds that the agency’s reduction of services violates the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Medicaid Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The services at issue are provided through the Medicaid ARChoices program is designed to allow individuals with disabilities to receive care in their communities instead of in a nursing home. Serving around 11,000 people, the program provides an in-home caregiving aide to attend to the tasks of daily living that individuals with severe disabilities may not be able to do independently, such as help using the toilet, bathing, eating, getting dressed, preparing food, keeping the house clean, and laundry. The number of caregiving hours recipients gets depends on the severity of their condition and needs.

For individuals with severe disabilities, living in their own communities means visiting with friends and family, having comfort and familiarity, and participating meaningfully in activities and events. In the case of Mr. Ledgerwood, who has cerebral palsy that makes him unable to use his limbs, staying in the community has allowed him to be an active member of his church, hold elected office in his hometown, and participate in several political clubs in northeast Arkansas. For Ms. Jacobs, who has advanced dementia and congestive heart failure, staying in the community means living in the house she has been in for 15 years, receiving attention and care from a devoted son, and visiting with her older siblings.

By providing these services, DHS is able to save money by keeping individuals who would be eligible for nursing home placement out in the community. According to DHS’s own estimates, it costs on average nearly six times more to provide care to individuals with severe disabilities in nursing homes than in the community.

Despite the fact that their medical conditions have not improved, DHS arbitrarily slashed the levels of services for Mr. Ledgerwood by 43% and Ms. Jacobs by 22% without any explanation. These significant cuts undermine their health and safety.

The lawsuit demands accountability from DHS and affirms the rights of low-income Arkansans with disabilities to receive services in their homes when possible and to be treated fairly by the state.
All media inquiries should be directed to Kevin De Liban, staff attorney with Legal Aid of Arkansas, at (901) 834-0436. View the press release here.

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