Kevin De Liban, Director of Advocacy for Legal Aid of Arkansas
April 15, 2021
We want to share some wonderful news about a big court case where we just won a huge and important step.
This case is really about government accountability and holding DHS responsible to make sure that the programs that they have work for the people who need them and to hold the DHS officials who make the decisions that hurt people and break the programs, individually responsible for those actions.
Those of you who follow our work know that Legal Aid of Arkansas has for years, been working to protect the AR Choices program. AR Choices is a Medicaid program that provides in home care to people who are elderly or have disabilities, so that they can stay at home instead of going to a nursing home. AR Choices provides an actual caregiver for a set number of hours a day or a week to help with all the kinds of activities you need to be independent. That can be everything from shopping, cooking, and cleaning, to getting out of bed, getting dressed and bathing, to participating in community activities that make your life joyful and bring you some pleasure.
We know that staying at home is good for people. It is better for their dignity and wellbeing. In addition, it is usually much less expensive then nursing home care. Therefore, it makes sense all around.
The state has for years been trying to cut the AR choices program. We fought off an attempt a few years ago for DHS to use an algorithm to decide how many hours of care someone could receive, and we were successful in getting rid of that. The state then replaced that system with another system that has its own set up problems. And we’ve been fighting to make sure that everybody on the program doesn’t get their benefits cut and that if the state makes a decision to cut their benefits that the person on the program has the ability to fight it and prove that they are entitled to these benefits, need those benefits, and that the cut is wrong.
What happened in this case is that the state has had a problem for several years, and we at Legal Aid have been telling them about this for several years and they did nothing at all to fix it. The three plaintiffs in our case ended up getting hurt by DHS’ failures. They suffered immensely, not getting the care they needed, not being able to use the bathroom, not getting enough food, all sorts of other indignities. They suffered extensively.
Recently, in this lawsuit, we received a favorable decision from Federal District Court Judge Baker, who is based out of Little Rock, which says that our lawsuit can move forward. Not only against DHS but also against the people at DHS who made the decisions that have caused so much harm. It is very possible the state appeals the decision, but we will be there fighting every step of the way.
Thank you so much for tuning in and your continued support for Legal Aid of Arkansas.