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The Sacramento Bee

October 1, 2009

Advocates sue over in-home care cuts

By Susan Ferriss

Disability and senior-citizen rights groups filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court today to stop 130,000 people from either being dropped or cut from California's In-Home Supportive Services program as of Nov. 1.

Alleging violations of federal disability rights laws, the organizations are challenging how California state welfare directors have decided to select who will be dropped from services because of state budget cuts. The groups are asking for a hearing before a judge as soon as next week to seek a preliminary injunction before the state starts mailing notices in mid-October to IHSS recipients informing them that they will be affected by cuts.

Because of budget reductions, the state's Department of Social Services was required to cut $82.1 million from the program's costs this year. Officials are deciding who will have services reduced or dropped using what's called a "functional index" score or ranking.

For most IHSS recipients, including some with dementia or psychological conditions, the state's notices would be the first time they become aware of their ranking and that they are no longer eligible for help, said Melinda Bird, an attorney with Disability Rights California.

The index is an internal method that county social workers use to assess what kinds of services a recipient needs based on medical conditions, Bird said. She said it was never meant to be used to decide who should be enrolled in the program or dropped from it.

The Schwarzenegger administration was reviewing the suit and had no immediate comment.