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Disability Action Center NW

People with brain injuries, disabilities seek services outside nursing homes

ALT LAKE CITY — The Disabled Rights Action Committee is urging people with traumatic brain injuries and physical disabilities who are unable to receive services they need outside of nursing home settings to play a role in a Department of Justice probe of the state Division of Services for People of Disabilities.

“The state is not going to dodge this legal responsibility any longer,” said Jerry Costley, executive director of DRAC, at a news conference last week.

“No one should be in a nursing home for even one day,” Costley said. “That’s the law.”DRAC officials say Utah has violated federal law and a 1999 Supreme Court decision by forcing people to receive services in nursing homes instead of community settings or in their homes.

Cathy Garber, who has been on the state waiting list for more than 10 years, said she needs “community-based services to remain in her own home. The only alternative is going into a nursing home.”

The problem is, “it really takes away one’s choice to live as they wish.”

Garber, of Salt Lake City, who has cerebral palsy and has been disabled since birth, said she once entered a nursing home to receive services. In order to leave the home, a nursing home employee she befriended quit her job and took her into her own home to care for her.

Garber, who has earned two bachelor degrees and is completing a graduate degree, said she would prefer to be a productive and contributing member of the community than live in a nursing home. Receiving needed services in a community-based setting would enable her to live as normal a life as possible, she said.

Ryan Griffin of Provo, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a spinal fracture sustained in a basketball game, said federal requirements to receive services are absurd.

“They wanted to put me in a nursing home for 90 days but I had already spent 5 and a half months in a rehabilitation for my needs to be met,” Griffin said. Griffin said he is on a disability waiver but had to sue the state to obtain it.

He requires full-time assistance, he said. “From the neck down, I have no movement or feeling so I can’t feed myself. If I have to itch my nose, I can’t itch my nose. The disability waiver was the only way to get some help in order to meet my needs.”

Barbara Toomer, DRAC chairwoman, said not only should the state comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision because it is the “law of the land,” the state could save money by providing community alternatives to nursing homes.

(story continues here)