News from Disability Rights Ohio is the monthly newsletter from the Disability Rights Ohio providing information and updates about case work and activities of Disability Rights Ohio, and other disability-related news.
In this issue:
- U.S. District Court fails to address question raised in EPSDT case
- Disability Rights Ohio wins attorneys' fees in voter accommodation case
- Sponsor testimony today, tomorrow for SB 43, HB 104
- Executive Director Michael Kirkman testifies before Ohio Senate subcommittee
- Tobin testifies at ODE seclusion and restraint rule hearing, featured on NBC 4 news
- Help us keep the victories coming! Donate online to Disability Rights Ohio
After dismissing four of the five Plaintiffs in G.D. vs. Colbert on technical arguments, the U.S. District Court has ruled that the remaining Plaintiff’s case does not provide enough evidence to answer the main legal question: whether Ohio’s rule of medical necessity conflicts with federal standards for medical necessity in the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Medicaid program for children. The case was brought by Disability Rights Ohio seven years ago against the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which administers Ohio’s Medicaid system. All five of the Plaintiffs had been denied services by Ohio’s Medicaid system that likely would have been approved under federal standards.
The state had argued that the Plaintiffs could not bring the case to federal court because they had already appealed their case through the Medicaid hearing system. However, the court found that a Medicaid administrative hearing was not the appropriate entity to make a broad legal judgment on a broad legal issue. Therefore, the Plaintiffs had the right to bring their case to federal court.
In 2011, Disability Rights Ohio and the state entered into a consent decree which settled the other claims in the case. Disability Rights Ohio continues to monitor the implementation of the consent decree, which focuses on ensuring that children and their families are informed about the EPSDT benefit and how to access Medicaid services.
Read the Opinion and Order.
The Southern District Court of Ohio recently awarded Disability Rights Ohio attorneys’ fees and costs in an important case affirming the rights of voters with disabilities. In this case, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the county board of elections had refused to accommodate a voter with a disability, who had not received the absentee ballot she requested until the day after Election Day and whose disability prevented her from traveling to her polling location. Disability Rights Ohio initiated emergency litigation on the evening of Election Day to protect her rights and ensure her an equal opportunity to exercise her fundamental right to vote. The court later concluded that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required that her vote be counted.
Congress included a provision in the ADA that allows a court to order state or local officials who violate the law to pay the attorney’s fees of the person who had to go to court to enforce their rights. Congress intended these “fee shifting” provisions as a remedy for the prevailing party, to encourage compliance with the ADA, and to provide an incentive for qualified attorneys to take cases when violations occur. Disability Rights Ohio uses these funds to provide needed advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities in elections and other contexts.
Two Ohio legislative committees will hear sponsor testimony this week on Senate Bill 43 and House Bill 104, which would expand the use of involuntary commitment and assisted outpatient treatment for individuals with mental illness in our state. The public is invited to attend these hearings, but only the sponsors of the bill will testify. No public comments will be permitted at this time.
The Senate Civil Justice Committee will meet today, April 9, 2013 at 10 a.m. in the Statehouse North Hearing Room. A list of the committee members can be found on the Ohio Senate website.
The House Judiciary Committee will meet tomorrow, April 10, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. in Statehouse Room 121. A list of the committee members can be found on the Ohio House website.
Public hearings will be held at a later date.
Disability Rights Ohio Executive Director Michael Kirkman testified before the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations, Health and Human Services Subcommittee. His testimony included brief thanks to the committee for their support during DRO's transition from state agency to non-profit, the the importance of Medicaid expansion to our clients, and the critical need for more community-based care. Kirkman fielded questions from many members of the subcommittee, specifically about community-based care vs. institutional care.
You can read the full submitted written testimony here [PDF].
Disability Rights Ohio Chief Legal Counsel Sue Tobin testified before the Ohio Department of Education on March 12 regarding the seclusion and restraint rule. You can read the text of her testimony here [PDF].
NBC 4 News in Columbus also attended the hearing and ran this story, featuring a quote from Disability Rights Ohio Chief Legal Counsel Sue Tobin.
Susan Tobin with the advocacy group Disability Rights Ohio said the board is moving in the right direction, but the group feels that more training is needed.
"We had filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education about Columbus City Schools, and even though there were almost 2,000 incidents occurring in one year, the department found no violation. And we think that's a problem. I think the Ohio Department of Education staff needs training as well," said Tobin.
The ACLU of Ohio has posted full transcripts of all advocate testimony on its website.
We believe people with disabilities should be allowed to participate in the community and have a say in how they live, just like people who live without a disability. There is always more to do, but we need your help.
Disability Rights Ohio can now accept donations via PayPal. You can find the PayPal button on our Donate page. Please consider making a donation yourself or come up with a creative way to raise money for our cause. Thank you so much for your support!