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May 6, 2010

Sacramento County sued for ending outpatient mental health services

•  Class action suit tries to stop the county from acting
•  ‘They also threaten catastrophic harm to the most vulnerable members of our society’

A class action lawsuit seeking to stop Sacramento County from going ahead with a plan to terminate outpatient mental health services to thousands of indigent Medi-Cal patients on June 30 has been filed.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by Disability Rights California, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Cooley LLP, alleges that the county's planned termination of the services violates numerous federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Medicaid Act and the federal and state constitutions.

According to the complaint filed Thursday, Sacramento County currently provides outpatient mental health services to approximately 5,000 adults with severe and chronic mental illness in six community-based treatment programs.

The county has said that the programs will be terminated on June 30 due to budget cuts and that replacement services will be available on July 1.

But the plaintiffs say the county has released almost no information about what services will be provided, by whom, where they will be located, how patients' records will be transferred, or how patients can be assured of continuity of treatment.

"These service cuts are not only unlawful, they also threaten catastrophic harm to the most vulnerable members of our society," says Stuart Seaborn, managing attorney of Disability Rights California's Sacramento office.