Florida Shifts Policies After Report Accuses It of Warehousing Children in Nursing Homes

The head of Florida's main public health care agency has made several policy changes in response to a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report that accused the state of "warehousing" children with special needs in nursing homes.

As we reported in October, the Justice Department sent the state of Florida a letter accusing it of illegally placing children with special needs in nursing homes. Most of the children living in the Florida nursing homes have feeding tubes, and a third of them require ventilators to breathe, which makes caring for them in other settings difficult. The report pointed out that in many cases the children ended up in nursing homes because the state drastically reduced the level of in-home care they were receiving, leaving their parents no choice but to place the children in institutions.

In response to the outcry over this policy, Elizabeth Dudek, the head of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, announced increased monitoring of children living in nursing homes and the implementation of a program designed to move children out of nursing homes and back into the community as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Speaking with the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, Dudek claimed that "[t]hese reports that they throw somebody in a back room somewhere, where its not at all child-based, where they dont talk to the child, thats not true at all." However, advocates for people with disabilities dispute the state's claims and continue to pursue community placement for as many of the institutionalized children as possible.

To read an article in the Miami Herald about the changes in Florida's program, click here, and here for a report on a recent meeting with parents of some of the children whose in-home care has been cut.

Article Last Modified: 01/08/2013