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Court Blocks California From Closing Health Centers

Low-income residents will continue to get services

In a victory for California’s low-income seniors and disabled residents, a federal judge has stopped the financially strapped state from shutting down more than 300 adult day health centers.

The decision affects low-income Californians who use the community-based facilities to monitor their medications and health status, which helps them stay out of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

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“We are delighted that tens of thousands of older people in California will no longer have to worry about losing these vital services,” said Kelly Bagby, the lead AARP lawyer on the case. “They will be able to continue to live independently in their own homes and communities, and the state will save money at the same time.”

It costs the state $76 a day for a person to visit one of these centers, far less than the cost of a nursing home or other institution, Bagby said.

The case, brought two years ago by Disability Rights California, challenged California’s plans to eliminate Adult Day Health Care (ADHC), a Medi-Cal benefit.

“There are a lot of people who really need this program,” said Esther Darling, 74, the lead plaintiff in the case, who regularly receives care from the Yolo Adult Day Health Center in Woodland. “I have fought to stay out of a nursing home and have been able to with ADHC.”

Even in challenging budget times, “our state has recognized the importance of maintaining this uniquely beneficial and cost-effective program,” added Ken Kuwayti, a lawyer with the Morrison & Foerster law firm, who also worked on the case.

The health centers provide care for people with diabetes, respiratory illnesses, mental health problems and dementia. U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong approved the settlement on Jan. 24, calling it fair, adequate and reasonable.

The seven plaintiffs who filed the class action suit on behalf of some 35,000 low-income older and disabled persons argued that eliminating ADHC without appropriate replacement services would violate the Americans With Disabilities Act by placing participants at risk of institutionalization, hospitalization, injury or death.

The centers remained open as the case made its way through the courts. The U.S. Justice Department supported the settlement. 

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