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June 21, 2010
Sacramento – Today Federal District Judge John Mendez granted a preliminary injunction stopping the county from implementing and enforcing its hybrid plan until the court determines that mental health recipients will continue to receive integrated services to avoid institutionalization. The County's plan would have closed centers that are now providing lifelines for an estimated 5000 people with psychiatric disabilities, placing mental health consumers’ health and safety at risk.
Leslie Napper, one of Sacramento County’s mental health clients and a plaintiff in the case, said, “This is such a relief to know that the centers we’ve been depending on to keep us anchored in the community will stay open. My elderly father and I share a home and he depends on me for a lot of support. With access to my usual providers, I’m confident that I can stay on an even keel and avoid my previous need for inpatient services.”
The class action lawsuit was brought by five individuals who would have been affected by the county’s threatened plans. The Plaintiffs, who are being represented by Disability Rights California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Cooley LLP alleged that the County’s plan to terminate these services violated numerous federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Medicaid Act and the federal and state constitutions. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a statement of interest in the case in support of Plaintiffs’ motion. The DOJ stated that, under the County’s proposed plan, Plaintiffs will experience a significant reduction in services and be at risk of being placed in hospitals and psychiatric inpatient facilities.
The County’s intent was to open new clinics August 1, staffed by its own employees, to replace centers that have been providing these services successfully for over 15 years. The existing centers are run by nonprofit providers under competitively bid contracts. The County provided few details about the replacement staff or plans for an orderly transfer of services.
Melinda Bird, Senior Counsel of Disability Rights California’s Los Angeles Regional Office, said, “We are pleased that the court recognized the imminent harm to mental health consumers’ well being and the likelihood that hundreds of individuals currently living successfully in the community would face placement in locked institutions as a result of the proposed cuts. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA on July 26, mental health consumers will be assured that their right to live in the community with appropriate supports has been protected.”
Robert Newman, Senior Counsel for the Western Center of Law and Poverty, added, “The District Court has prevented a man-made disaster which would have badly hurt thousands of Sacramento County’s most vulnerable residents. The preliminary injunction will keep proven services in place, and provide continuity of care with trusted providers.”
William Freeman, a partner with Cooley LLP, stated, “The County plan involved higher-cost personnel that would have been unable to provide comparable services to those provided by the existing clinics. Current and future recipients of mental health services in Sacramento County will benefit from this decision.”
Contacts for Plaintiffs Counsel:
Disability Rights California: Melinda Bird, (323) 997-3235, Stuart Seaborn (916) 488-9950.
Western Center on Law and Poverty: Robert Newman, (213) 487-7211 ext. 2619.
Cooley LLP: Ashley Kanigher, (415) 693-2003