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Lawsuit Asks Federal Court to End Segregation of Individuals with Mental Illnesses

Monday, August 19, 2013

Disability Rights Florida has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

The federal lawsuit, titled T.W. et. al v. Jacobo et. al, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of over 1600 individuals with disabilities who reside in a State treatment facility and who have both the desire to and capability to reside in the community.

The lawsuit is on behalf of individuals committed to the Department of Children and Families under Florida’s Civil Mental Health Act. The lawsuit seeks the administration of mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet the needs of the plaintiffs and the individuals in the class. The lawsuit also seeks to end the unnecessary isolation of the plaintiffs and class members.

The plaintiffs and class members served by Florida’s mental health treatment facilities include people with mental health diagnoses. They are 18 years or older and have voluntarily admitted themselves or are involuntarily held by a judicial order. They are segregated in the state treatment facilities because appropriate services do not exist for them in the community. Florida’s treatment professionals have identified that hundreds of these individuals currently confined in civil state mental health treatment facilities could be served in less restrictive settings.

Individuals residing in civil state treatment facilities have limited access to community activities and opportunities to interact with people who do not have disabilities. For these adults, who want to live in the community with necessary supported housing and assertive community treatment team services, the available services are not adequate or available statewide.

Dana Farmer, Director of Legislative and Public Affairs, as well as coordinator of Disability Rights Florida’s federal grant that advocates for people with mental illnesses, explained, “What we are asking is for the Court to compel the State to offer a full array of supports and services in integrated community settings that will allow people with mental illnesses to leave these highly segregated state hospitals. For people with mental illnesses, the State now supports the concept of recovery and resiliency but has done very little to help make that possible for people leaving institutionalized care.”

T.W. v. Jacobo alleges discrimination against individuals with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit seeks to compel Florida to administer mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individuals.

Tags for this Post

americans with disabilities act, litigation, mental illness,

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