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News about us 2009

 

The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter, Vol 6, No. 9, 12/4/09

Two cases involving Disability Rights Califiornia were featured in the latest e-Newsletter.

Washington Post, 12/1/09

Adult day-care centers worry about funding mentions recent Californian "lawsuits by community service advocates [which] thwarted a cut in the Medicaid reimbursement rate and a move to limit attendance to three days a week."

California Healthline, 11/18/09

Many IHSS Participants Must Shell Out More To Keep Receiving Services. Marilyn Holle of Disability Rights California filed another lawsuit last month contending that the state failed to properly inform IHSS participants about the changes.

San Diego City Beat, 11/12/09

Jason Vanderbie and his wife Natalie (Photo by Angela Carone)

Red tape, red flags: despite increased 'support,' vets still have trouble getting care from the VA - Too often, [Michael] McPherson said, the vets in his group are more overwhelmed by the VA system than by what might have happened to them in combat.

“There’s a lot of bitterness,” he said. “We have to continue to battle for these benefits that are supposed to be guaranteed for us.” Michael McPherson, a Disability Rights California staff member, is quoted in this article about the obstacles that veterans face.

The Californian, 11/4/09

Woes not over for in-home care - The injunction is good news, but the program has many other problems to contend with. The elimination of the share of cost buyout program is just one of them. The preliminary injunction did not reinstate funding for that program, so IHSS recipients can still have a significant increase in the amount of money they must pay to receive IHSS services. If they cannot pay their share of cost, their services will be terminated. ... You still have options if you or a family member finds yourself in this situation. You can contact Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746 to get help. The budget cut is not subject to appeal; however, each county must look for another Medi-Cal share of cost program that you might be eligible for, and appealing makes it more likely that your services stay in place while you look for another program.

Los Angeles Times, 11/2/09

Nonprofit company makes its owners wealthy - While the state cuts services for the disabled, the owners of a company that provides vocational help for them have made more than $7 million in five years. ... The company, Social Vocational Services, provides job training, life skills instruction and group housing for people with developmental disabilities -- an industry that relies on low-wage workers and government handouts. ... Catherine Blakemore, executive director of Disability Rights California, an advocacy group, said, "People with developmental disabilities are going to have a much harder time getting the services they need."

CaliforniaHealthline, 10/23/09

Recent injunction blocking in-home care cuts highlights impact of reducing safety-net care - In a California Healthline Special Report by David Gorn, experts discussed how service reductions could affect health care access and quality for vulnerable populations. The Special Report includes comments from: Melinda Bird, chief counsel for Disability Rights California; Laura Dunn, medical ethicist at UC-San Francisco; and Joseph Hafkenschiel, president of the California Association for Health Services at Home. (Audio Report)

Marin Independent Journal, 10/23/09

Marin recipients of home support services grateful for judge's reprieve - Marin residents who would have lost government funding for their In-Home Supportive Service workers under proposed state changes were relieved this week after a federal judge blocked the plan, at least temporarily. ... "I was very happy to hear that. I was going through a lot of stress. I was going to be cut off completely," said Tammy Lehman of Novato, who receives help cleaning her home, cooking and shopping for groceries three times a week. Lehman said she suffers from back problems, a seizure disorder and depression.

The Berkeley Daily Planet, 10/22/09

Judge halts disability home care cuts - “We are convinced a humanitarian disaster would have resulted from the precipitous and arbitrary withdrawal of essential services and are delighted that the court agreed with us,” said lead counsel Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California. Bird said the defendants, the director of the California Department of Social Services and the director of the California Department of Health Care Services, would appeal the injunction in court. “Our focus will be on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal,” she said. “We think the defendants will argue that the cuts they have made are reasonable.” ... Bird said that the injunction would stay in effect till there was a judgment or resolution in the case, which she said usually took six months or longer.

The New York Times, 10/21/09

Justice for those with mental disabilities: a New York model? - After eight years of the Bush administration using the power of the Justice Department to undermine civil rights laws, it is good to see the department applying one of those laws, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It has started a timely new initiative aimed at full enforcement of that law, which forbids unjustified isolation of the mentally disabled and requires that they be integrated into the wider community where appropriate.

Los Angeles Times, 10/20/09

Judge bars state cuts to 130,000 in-home care recipients - Injunction prevents California from enacting planned budget cuts of $82.1 million in services to elderly and infirm resident - A federal judge Monday blocked California from cutting in-home care for 130,000 elderly and disabled state residents whose services would have been reduced or eliminated Nov. 1. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland issued a preliminary injunction against $82.1 million in cuts, siding with the plaintiffs' argument in a class-action lawsuit that the state's method of determining whose services would be affected was unfair. "We're very relieved," said Melinda Bird, senior counsel for Disability Rights California and an attorney in the case.

California Progress Report - 10/20/09

Federal judge blocks IHSS cuts - says state violated Federal law - In a sweeping major victory for persons with disabilities, mental health needs, the blind, low income seniors and their families, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers and advocacy groups, Federal District Court Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland issued an order early Monday afternoon (October 19th) that stopped the State from moving forward on implementing cuts to eligibility and services under the IHSS program that was scheduled to go into effect November 1. ... Lead attorneys for the lawsuit can be reached as follows: Melinda Bird, Disability Rights California (representing the IHSS recipients), Stacey Leyton, Altshuler Berzon LLP, (representing the IHSS workers), Paula Pearlman, Disability Rights Legal Center.

San Francisco Chronicle - 10/20/09

Judge bars state cuts to support services - A federal judge blocked the state Monday from eliminating in-home care to 36,000 elderly or disabled Californians, saying the money-saving measure appears to violate federal law and would deprive people of help they need to stay in their homes. ... Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Dara Schur of Disability Rights California, quoted Wilken as saying the reductions would cause "incredible human suffering and injury."

Sacramento Bee, 10/20/09

Judge halts cuts to California in-home aid - A federal judge on Monday halted the state of California's plan to cut or reduce caregiver services for 130,000 disabled and low-income seniors starting Nov. 1. Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland imposed a preliminary injunction against the plan, which is intended to cut $82.1 million this year out of In-Home Supportive Services. ... "I am very relieved," attorney Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California said. Bird said that the notices the state must now send are part of a directive from the judge to reassure people they won't be left without help. "The notices are like a prophylactic 'Don't Worry' notice," Bird said. Bird said the judge's order shows she is taking disabled activists' lawsuit seriously.

Chicago Tribune, 10/20/09

Judge bars state cuts to 130,000 in-home care recipients - Injunction prevents California from enacting planned budget cuts of 82.1 million in services to elderly and infirm residents - "We're very relieved," said Melinda Bird, senior counsel for Disability Rights California and an attorney in the case.

ABC 7 KOGO, 10/19/09

Judge halts cuts to in-home care services - Thousands of disabled California residents breathed a sigh of relief Monday after a federal judge ruled budget cuts slashing their in-home care will not stand. Disabled residents came by the hundreds, many in their wheelchairs, to send the message that budget cuts slashing the state's in-home supportive services program would mean an end to their independence.

SEIU California Press Release, 10/19/09

Home care protected: Seniors, advocates and providers win a preliminary injunction to stop home care cuts to 130,000 Californians - The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Legal Center, National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the National Health Law Program on behalf of IHSS consumers, and the unions that represent IHSS home care workers – SEIU ULTCW-United Long Term Care Workers; SEIU UHW-United Healthcare Workers West; SEIU Local 521; UDW Homecare Providers Union--AFSCME Local 3930, and California United Homecare Workers (CUHW).

The Oakland Tribune, 10/19/09

Federal judge halts IHSS cuts - Disability Rights California senior counsel Melinda Bird, representing the elderly and disabled plaintiffs, argued the state can do more. Wilken ordered Bird to file more court papers by noon Tuesday to explain this, and she ordered Carson to respond by noon Wednesday before she issues a written order detailing how the cuts must be halted.

San Francisco Chronicle, 10/19/09

Judge halts cuts to California in-home care services - A federal judge has put at least a temporary halt to a plan by California officials to reduce spending for a state program that helps with meal preparation, shopping and other services for disabled or elderly people.

Daily Journal, 10/19/09

Judge halts health cuts to seniors, disabled - A federal judge in Oakland blocked state officials from slashing in-home health services to 130,000 seniors and disabled patients on Monday, two weeks before the cuts were to take effect. ... Melinda Bird, senior counsel for Disability Rights Advocacy, said the ruling will prevent thousands of sick and elderly Californians from flooding emergency rooms or being permanently institutionalized. "The level of suffering that was possible was on a scale that I'd certainly never seen," Bird said.

Los Angeles Times, 10/19/09

Judge blocks cuts to home care program - U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland issued a preliminary injunction against the $263.5 million in cuts, siding with the plaintiffs’ argument that the state’s method of determining whose services would be cut was unfair. ... “The short answer is we’re very relieved,” said Melinda Bird, senior counsel for Disability Rights California and an attorney involved in the class-action case.

Inclusion Daily Express, 10/19/09

Judge's ruling a victory for Californians with disabilities - A federal judge has halted a slashing of the In-Home Supportive Service program which would have affected 130,000 disabled and elderly Californians starting Nov. 1. ... Disability Rights California senior counsel Melinda Bird, representing the elderly and disabled plaintiffs, argued the state can do more. Wilken ordered Bird to file more court papers by noon today to explain this, and she ordered Carson to respond by noon Wednesday before she issues a written order detailing how the cuts must be halted.

California Healthline, 10/16/09

State cannot reverse cuts to in-home care program, officials say - California officials say computer programming issues will make it impossible for the state to comply with a court order blocking scheduled budget cuts to the In-Home Supportive Services program, the Sacramento Bee reports. ... The plaintiffs said they plan to ask Wilken to keep the restraining order in place until the suit is settled.

The Sacramento Bee, 10/15/09

Judge halts in-home health cutoff notices - A federal judge in Oakland has issued an order blocking state officials from mailing out notices Thursday to 130,000 seniors and disabled people whose state-supported caregiver services are to be cut or reduced on Nov. 1. ... Advocates hope to obtain a restraining order against the mailings that will last until the lawsuit is settled. They argue that they way officials selected people to either cut or reduce services for violates federal laws and is "arbitrary and irrational."

CDCAN, 10/15/09

Hearing on federal lawsuit to stop IHSS budget cuts set for Monday - While conceding that a state can make budget cuts to programs under certain conditions, Melinda Bird, an attorney with Disability Rights California (formerly Protection and Advocacy Inc or PAI) said earlier this month, adding that “States do have obligation to provide services in the most integrated settings. California does have an “Olmstead Plan” and IHSS is a cornerstone of that plan.” ... But she said that the major cuts to IHSS was “as if the State had built a ramp to enable people to function in the community and now the State is dismantling that ramp.”

Daily Journal, October 2009

State sued to block budget cuts for foster kids - Seniors, disabled patients and unions for in-home health workers sued California officials last week in federal court seeking to prevent the state from cutting the Home Health Support Services program that assists elderly and mentally ill people who cannot handle daily tasks like taking medications and cooking but are not sick enough to be institutionalized. Pursuant to the "supremacy clause" of the Constitution, the foster care lawsuit asks the federal court to prevent the state from implementing the rate cuts that would compromise children's health and safety and further violate U.S. law.

Contra Costa Times, 10/5/09

Humboldt County protesters carry signs that say 'Save In-Home Supportive Services' and 'Keep Patrick's Point Open'

Days are about to get a lot harder for more than 850 people in Humboldt County who depend on the state's In-Home Supportive Services program for assistance. ... "The proposed cuts are especially biased against people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury, who may need help just as much as people with physical disabilities," said Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California, who is serving as lead counsel on the case, in a press release.

Los Angeles Times, 10/2/09

Advocates sue over California's in-home care cuts - "I think that we will ultimately be successful in convincing a judge that yes, the state can make cuts, but not this way," said Melinda Bird, senior counsel in the Los Angeles office of Disability Rights California, a plaintiff in both suits. "I would encourage people not to give up." ... Bird said she worries that the department will become overwhelmed with a flood of appeals.

WSJ.com, 9/26/09

Social Security owes 'fugitives' millions

The Press Enterprise, 9/22/09

Visitors place flowers at the burial site of Antonio Saver in a field at Patton State Hospital. A ceremony at the site remembered those who died in the mental institution and were buried in unmarked or mass graves on the property. Photo: Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise.

At the center of a weed-choked lot on Patton State Hospital's western boundary, Antonio Saver's relatives have marked his grave with a simple stone cairn, in keeping with Saver's Serrano Indian traditions. Speakers at the memorial event -- one of nine held throughout the state Monday -- said the neglect was in keeping with California's long-running disregard for the mentally ill. Having a proper burial "would restore these people's dignity as human beings," said Michael Stortz, an attorney with Disability Rights California.

The Ukiah Daily Journal, 9/22/09

Memorial at the Russian River Cemetery, September 21, 2009

Over 60 individuals gathered Tuesday at the Russian River Cemetery District for a somber and bittersweet tribute to patients of the former Mendocino State Hospital. The seventh annual Day of Remembrance, coordinated by the California Memorial Project, is a collaboration of three California agencies for the purpose of restoring dignity to mostly unknown individuals who lived and died in state hospitals and developmental centers - some who were buried and others who were cremated and placed in mass graves.

The Ukiah Daily Journal, 9/19/09

Restoring names to people who died in state mental hospitals is part of the purpose of a Remembrance Day ceremony slated for Monday at 12:15 p.m. on the southwest corner of the Ukiah cemetery o Low Gap Road. This will be the seventh annual statewide ceremony to honor and restore dignity to those who lived and died in state hospitals, institutions and developmental centers throughout the state. The California Memorial Project, launched in 2001, aims to restore the names and histories of those patients.

The Porterville Recorder, 9/18/09

Expense of new specialty digs for PDC clients questioned - Cost $85 million - “The issue isn’t nicer or less nice,” Daniel Brzovic, an attorney for Disability Rights California, said. “The issue is building a cost effective building that provides public safety.” ... The state should not go out of its way to make a building ugly or dysfunctional, according to Brzovic. Both a prison and the [Porterville Developmental Center] are designed to keep the public safe, however, the latter is home to people who have nursing needs, he added. “You do want a therapeutic environment,” he said.

Ventura County Star, 9/14/09

Injunction restores benefits to seniors, disabled - ... In order to issue the injunction, the judge had to decide that the plaintiffs have a good chance of prevailing, said Elissa Gershon, a lawyer with Disability Rights California, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. In her ruling, Armstrong said the cuts would have done irreparable harm.

San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/09

Judge blocks state cuts to adult day care - ... "We're very, very pleased, and the 8,000 people who attend the program more than three days a week are also very excited and relieved to be able to continue to get the services they need," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Elizabeth Zirker of Disability Rights California in Oakland. Zirker contended the decision actually saves the state money. "Besides putting people at risk of being placed in institutions long term, cutting the program would be more costly because it would increase the need for services from the state," she said.

Sonoma Valley Sun, 9/11/09

Remembrance Day ceremony at Sonoma Developmental Center - The California Memorial Project (CMP) presents the Seventh Annual Remembrance Day Ceremony at Sonoma Developmental Center from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Butler Gazebo on Monday, Sept. 21. ... For information about the California Memorial Project, contact Alicia Mendoza, CMP Representative from Disability Rights California, at 916.488.7787.

Contra Costa Times (Oakland Tribune), 9/11/09

Judge orders halt to Adult Day Health Care cuts - ... The plaintiffs' attorney, Elizabeth Zirker of Oakland-based Disability Rights Advocates, said Thursday afternoon that her clients "have been very concerned about what's going to happen to them ... and they're incredibly relieved and happy."

California Progress Report, 9/10/09

Nursing Home Bill Delayed Until 2010 - ... Opponents of the bill, which include several disability advocacy organizations including Disability Rights of California, said it was wrong to increase rates for nursing facilities at a time when other community-based programs and services were hit by major spending reductions. Opponents of the bill also say that quality in the nursing facilities who receive a higher reimbursement rate has not improved.

The Orange County Register, 9/1/09

Will state aid for in-home care be cut for your family? The short answer: There's no way to tell until it happens - ... So instead of teaching people how to find out if they'd be affected, Tuesday's meeting in Garden Grove was aimed at helping people understand how to react. Aleyda Toruno, a senior advocate for Disability Rights California, outlined the complicated formula for calculating the ranking, and explained how to file an appeal challenging them.

Marin Independent Journal, 8/31/09

Hundreds in Marin face in-home service cuts. ... The forum was organized by the Marin Center for Independent Living, United Health Care Workers West and Disability Rights California. Crystal Padilla of Disability Rights California gave a lengthy presentation on the changes to the formula used by the state and county to determine a recipient's level of need for in-home support services.

Smart Brief, 8/25/09

Some California seniors are suing the state for trimming the number of days skilled health care facilities are open for adults with disabilities from five days a week to three. A request for an injunction has been filed seeking to prevent the cuts, prompted by the new state budget. "This is going to result in people being hospitalized and institutionalized in nursing homes, because they rely so heavily on this program to keep them in their own homes and communities," said an attorney with Disability Rights California, a nonprofit.

Courthouse News Service, 8/25/09

Cuts to care for old folks in California challenged - With the program cuts scheduled for on Aug. 27, Brantley and other class members may have no option but to be placed in homes. Their attorney Elizabeth Zirker says none of her clients want to be separated from their families and communities but cannot afford around-the-clock private care.

"These people have limited resources, and it's actually a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act if their services are cut and they're forced into homes," Zirker said, referring to a 1999 Supreme Court decision which held that unnecessary institutionalization of disabled people constitutes discrimination under the ADA.

KPBS, 8/25/09

State sued to halt cuts to adult day health care - The new state budget cuts the programs to three days a week. Elizabeth Zirker is a staff attorney with the non-profit Disability Rights California. She argues the cuts will be devastating. ... "This is going to result in people being hospitalized and institutionalized in nursing homes, because they rely so heavily on this program to keep them in their own homes and communities," Zirker says.

Sacramento Business Journal, 8/21/09

Disabled seniors file class action to block state budget cuts. ... The cuts, if implemented, would place as many as 8,000 recipients at immediate risk of institutionalization, injury or death, according to disability advocates. The lawsuit is backed by Disability Rights California, AARP and the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

Chico News & Review, 8/21/09

California meltdown - A weekly flyover of the state budget crisis - A coalition of seniors’ and disability-rights organizations files a class-action suit to stop cuts in adult day health care services for more than 36,000 frail California residents.

New York Times, 8/12/09

National Briefing - West - California: Payment in Social Security suit ordered - A federal judge in Oakland has tentatively approved a settlement requiring the government to pay more than $500 million to tens of thousands of people wrongly barred from receiving Social Security Payments.

Bloomberg.com, 8/12/09

The U.S. Social Security Administration agreed to pay a total of $500 million to 80,000 people whose benefits were wrongly withheld by a federal program intended to deny payments to those fleeing arrest, the National Senior Citizens Law Center said. The agreement was part of a class-action settlement given initial approval yesterday by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, the center said in a statement.

Oklahoman, 8/12/09

Social security decision may be payout for many - A federal judge in California on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a settlement in a $500 million class-action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration in which an Oklahoma woman was a lead plaintiff. Roberta Dobbs, 75, of Durant and five others filed the suit in 2008 alleging the administration had improperly stopped their benefits because of outstanding warrants. A law allows the government to withhold benefits to anyone fleeing prosecution, but later interpretations extended the policy to anyone in an outstanding warrant database.

The AmLaw Litigation Daily, 8/12/09

Munger Tolles Helps Secure $500 Million Class Action Settlement for Social Security Beneficiaries - San Francisco federal district court judge Claudia Wilken gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a class action settlement estimated to be worth more than $500 million to 80,000 people who have been denied benefits by the Social Security Administration since 2007. The settlement is a victory for Munger, Tolles & Olson and a team of public interest lawyers, who represented some 200,000 people whose benefits were denied or suspended because of outstanding arrest warrants.

Information Week, Government, 8/12/09

Automated System Backfires on Social Security Administration - Following a lawsuit, the agency has agreed to pay $500 million in benefits that had been improperly withheld, and it will use human intermediaries to ensure accuracy.

Los Angeles Times, 8/12/09

$500-million settlement reached in suspension of Social Security benefits - Up to 200,000 people who were cut off on unfounded suspicions that they were felons evading law enforcement or prosecution will receive back payments - The suspensions, dating back nearly a decade in some instances, were ordered in cases of mistaken identity or outstanding warrants for offenses such as bounced checks or traffic violations.

San Francisco Chronicle, 8/12/09

Judge backs Social Security benefits settlement - A judge tentatively approved a settlement Tuesday to repay 80,000 Social Security recipients more than $500 million that the federal government lopped from their benefits, thanks to an anti-fugitive program that went haywire.

The Washington Post, 8/11/09

Social Security to Pay $500 Million to 80,000 Victims of Database Error - The Social Security Administration has agreed to pay more than $500 million in back benefits to more than 80,000 recipients whose benefits were unfairly denied after they were flagged by a federal computer program designed to catch serious criminals, officials said Tuesday. According to a preliminary agreement, approved Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, Calif., the Social Security Administration will pay recipients who have been denied benefits since Jan. 1, 2007. In addition, more than 120,000 recipients who were denied benefits before 2007 are eligible to apply for reinstatement.

Associated Press, 8/11/09

Judge OKs Tentative Deal in Social Security Suit - The Social Security Administration stopped sending Rosa Martinez her $870 monthly disability check last year because it said Miami police had issued a warrant for her arrest on drug charges. Trouble was, the federal agency had the wrong Rosa Martinez, and she was plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare that has ensnared tens of thousands of other Social Security recipients.

The Wall Street Journal, 8/11/09

Seniors Group: US Agency Will Pay $500M in Benefits Settlement - The U.S. Social Security Administration on Tuesday reached a preliminary settlement in a class action lawsuit, stemming from allegations that it "unlawfully" withheld benefits from 80,000 eligible recipients, court documents show.

ABA Journal, 8/11/09

$500M Gov’t settlement could aid 200K Social Security-eligible individuals - A federal judge in San Francisco gave preliminary approval today to a plan by the Social Security Administration to pay $500 million to settle a class action brought on behalf of 80,000 recipients who lost their benefits, starting in 2007, after being classified as individuals using government benefits to flee arrest.

Federal News Radio, 1500 AM, 8/11/09

Judge OKs tentative deal in Social Security suit - The Social Security Administration stopped sending Rosa Martinez her $870 monthly disability check last year because it said Miami police had issued a warrant for her arrest on drug charges. Trouble was, the federal agency had the wrong Rosa Martinez, and she was plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare that has ensnared tens of thousands of other Social Security recipients.

Huffington Post, August 2009

Huge Settlement after Hundreds of Thousands Cut Off from Social Security - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/politics/ (right column – temporary position)

The Daily Journal, August 2009

Social Security to Repay $500 Million (attached)

The Recorder, August 2009

$500 million settlement gets Wilken’s initial approval (attached)

Modesto Bee, 7/23/09

Safety net for poor, disabled in tatters after plan's cuts, health care advocates say - As details of the state budget deal emerged this week, some health care advocates said the agreement cuts too deeply into safety net programs for the poor and disabled. According to one estimate, a $144 million budget cut to Healthy Families, the low-cost health insurance for the working poor, would result in denying coverage to almost 780,000 children in California. ... Advocacy groups doubt those measures [fingerprinting] will uncover much fraud but say they will make it harder for people to find caregivers. "Very often, the wages paid to caregivers is close to minimum wage," said Dan Brzovic, associate managing attorney for Disability Rights California. "People at that wage scale won't want to deal with the additional requirements."

Sacramento Bee, 7/10/09

Facing suit, Sacramento burger joint plans to move - A lawsuit against the Squeeze Inn, the wildly popular Sacramento burger joint, is the latest filed by a disabled woman who in recent months has sued three other area small businesses for allegedly failing to comply with the federal law requiring access for people with disabilities. Rather than fight the lawsuit, the restaurant's owner plans to close his tiny Fruitridge Road eatery and reopen elsewhere. ... But Margaret Johnson, the advocacy director for Disability Rights California, said lawsuits are often the only tool available to the disabled community to force reluctant businesses to comply with state and federal access rules. ... Johnson noted that the federal law allows exceptions for businesses which can prove financial hardship or can show it would be nearly impossible to comply with access rules.

disabilityscoop, 7/8/09

More than two dozen national disability organizations are banding together to ask the Senate to confirm Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. ... Organizations that are part of the coalition supporting Sotomayor include the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autism Society of America, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Disability Rights Network and the National Down Syndrome Society.

San Diego Union Tribune, 7/8/09

Report: Hospital broke law by allowing shackling - An investigation contracted by the county has found that a La Mesa psychiatric hospital was in violation of state law when it allowed federal officials to shackle and deny other patient rights to mentally ill immigration detainees. ... The investigation, completed early last month and made available this week, resulted in a “plan of correction” stating that hospital staff members are to ensure detainees' rights unless it is individually determined that doing so poses a risk. If rights are denied, there must be documentation to support the decision.

U.S. News & World Report, 7/7/09

Students Suffer Abusive Restraint, GAO Says - Struggling to control special-needs students sometimes leads teachers to use risky techniques - The first instance of in-school abuse [National Disability Rights Network executive director Curt] Decker can recall happened about eight years ago when a girl who has Down syndrome was strapped to a chair and put in a closet by her teacher. NDRN provided legal services for the girl's family. Since then, the protection and advocacy centers NDRN operates in each state [including Disability Rights California] have seen steadily increasing numbers of similar cases.

Granite Bay Press Tribune, 6/25/09

Disabled refuse to take budget cuts lying down - One option that many families may face if they are reduced from the IHSS program is assisted living or convalescent home programs said Deborah Doctor, legislative advocate for Disability Rights California. ... According to Doctor, placing the disabled in convalescent hospitals will mean passing the bill to the taxpayers, as in-home care is markedly less expensive than state homes or institutions.

California Chronicle, 6/12/2009

SFMTA joins Assemblywoman Ma to push for higher fines for disabled placard parking abuse - Seventeen letters of support have been provided to date from organizations and individuals such as Disability Rights California, the League of California Cities and SFMTA Director Bruce Oka.

United Press International, 6/11/09

A California psychiatric hospital says it will stop providing non-emergency care for immigration detainees until federal rules on treatment are revised. ... After [the San Diego Union-Tribune] ran a story in May on detainees' treatment, California said those practices violate state laws on conditions for the mentally ill. Ann Menasche, a lawyer for the group, said she believes the hospital has no obligation to follow ICE requirements. "It's their facility, and they can say -- and I think they should say -- to ICE, 'Sure, we can take the patient, but they are going to get the same rights all patients get under California law,'" she said.

San Diego Union Tribune, 6/11/09

Hospital stops taking certain ICE detainees - Mental health facility heeds group's concerns - A La Mesa psychiatric hospital has stopped accepting nonemergency cases of mentally ill immigration detainees, but the issue of whether such patients can be shackled to their beds or have other restrictions remains unresolved. ... Ann Menasche, a lawyer for [Disability Rights California], said she has not received from ICE “any legal justification for what they are doing.” Menasche also said that in her opinion, Ziemer and the hospital do not have to abide by the agency's shackling and security requirements. The hospital is licensed under state law, which gives strong rights to mental health patients, Menasche said. “It's their facility, and they can say — and I think they should say — to ICE, ‘Sure, we can take the patient, but they are going to get the same rights all patients get under California law,’” she said.

California Healthline, 6/10/09 and
Los Angeles Times, 6/10/09

Democrats offer alternative to Schwarzenegger's budget plan - The governor's proposal to suspend some state mandates that require counties to provide some services is being met with resistance from some advocates, according to the Times. For example, Sean Rashkis, a lawyer for Disability Rights California, said mental health patients could be held in institutions months longer than necessary if the state suspends a mandate that guarantees attorneys during hearings to renew commitments to mental institutions. Schwarzenegger projects that the state could cut spending by $100 million by suspending some mandates.

Los Angeles Times, 6/9/09

Budget knife threatens popular state programs - Eliminating mandates for absentee ballots, aid to police and firefighters killed on duty and animal shelter rules could save $100 million. Local governments would have to pay to save them - A number of the mandates deal with the disabled and mentally ill. One requires coroners to investigate deaths at mental hospitals, and others guarantee lawyers during hearings to renew commitments to mental institutions. Sean Rashkis, an attorney for Disability Rights California, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that could delay hearings and leave mental health patients institutionalized "months after the commitment time has run" out.

Mercury News, 5/26/09

Schwarzenegger proposes to slash $2.8 billion more from state programs - For the third time in as many weeks, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday proposed slashing state programs by billions of dollars to wipe out a deficit that seems to be growing by the day. ... The program that provides in-home care for the elderly would be all but shuttered under Schwarzenegger's latest plans: About 387,000 of the 420,000 people now served would no longer be eligible, according to Deborah Doctor, an advocate for the disabled with extensive knowledge of the program.

San Diego Union Tribune, 5/26/09

Alvarado Hospital done with ICE - Where detainees with mental illness will go now is unclear - As a representative of Disability Rights California, [Ann] Menasche should be able to walk into any psychiatric facility to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were giving her the runaround, she said. Menasche said she plans to send letters to all San Diego County psychiatric facilities “to alert them that if they accept ICE detainees, they should comply with patients’ rights.” ...[ICE spokesperson Lauren] Mack said ICE is looking into policies pertaining to mentally ill detainees as part of a larger review of conditions at federal detention centers.

San Diego CityBeat, 5/26/09

Alvarado Hospital done with ICE - Where mentally ill detainees will go now is unclear - In last week’s CityBeat, we reported on attorney Ann Menasche’s attempts to talk to mentally ill immigration detainees who were being held at Alvarado Parkway Institute (API) in La Mesa, incommunicado and shackled to their beds. As a representative of Disability Rights California, Menasche should be able to walk into any psychiatric facility to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were giving her the runaround, she said.

San Diego CityBeat, 5/19/09

'A little Guantanamo' - Attorney finding it difficult to investigate treatment of mentally ill detainees - Ann Menasche should be able to walk into any psychiatric facility at any time to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse. All the disability-rights attorney needs is probable cause. Except, it seems, when the allegations involve patients held by the federal government for allegedly violating immigration laws. For the last several weeks, Menasche, an attorney with Disability Rights California, has tried unsuccessfully to get into Alvarado Parkway Institute (API), a La Mesa psychiatric hospital, to interview mentally ill detainees who’ve been sent there because staff at federal detention facilities, like the Otay Detention Facility, can’t adequately care for them. Menasche was given a formal tour of the facility on March 6—she could see detainees but not speak with them. ... “I want to talk to everybody, and at this rate, I’m not getting very far,” Menasche said in a May 14 interview with CityBeat.

San Diego Union Tribune, 5/18/09

Advocates object to "excessive ... punitive" treatment of immigration detainees in psychiatric hospitals - Federal immigration officials send mentally ill detainees to a private psychiatric hospital in La Mesa [known as API], where they are shackled to beds 24 hours a day, prohibited from watching television or using the telephone, and cut off from family. ... Ann Menasche, a lawyer with the legal advocacy group Disability Rights California, said she has been to API and has spoken to detainees there. In an eight-page letter sent to immigration officials April 24, Menasche said the conditions are “excessive, unjustifiable and punitive.”

California Progress Report, 4/15/09

Key health measures pass Assembly Health Committee - Next stop: Assembly Appropriations Committee - AB 214 (Chesbro) would require health plans to cover physician-ordered durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, canes, support lifts, oxygen tanks and more, at the same level the private providers would cover medical services. Currently, such equipment is covered through Medicare and MediCal but most private plans provide no more than $2,000 toward the cost of these items, or explicitly exclude coverage altogether. ... Supporters included Disability Rights California (sponsor), Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (sponsor), National Multiple Sclerosis Society – California Action Network (sponsor), AFL-CIO, and many other groups.

CBS 5, San Francisco, 3/31/09

Congressman seeks probe into school 'Quiet Rooms' - A year-long CBS 5 investigation into the practice of locking school children up in closet-like "quiet rooms" is going national. Over the past year, CBS5 Investigates uncovered numerous incidents in which children in classrooms all over the state were being forcibly pinned down to the ground and locked up in closets, just for misbehaving. Now, East Bay Congressman George Miller has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct a nationwide investigation. ... "They have a fear that they are going to be left in the room and forgotten and these fears haunt them for years," said Leslie Morrison with Disability Rights California.

Daily Democrat, 3/20/09

Latino families of kids with disabilities aided - Fiesta Educativa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement and rehabilitation of Latinos with special developmental needs, invites community members to attend its mini-conference, which features two workshops presented by Disability Rights California.

Daily News, 2/19/09

Advocates of people with disabilities are worried - Passage of the state budget brought jitters to service providers for people with developmental disabilities Thursday. Disability Rights California advocate Deborah Doctor warned of the "multiplication of harms." Many wondered how the $100 million in general funding cuts would affect day programs, in-house visits and services that help men and women live outside of institutions.

Inland Empire Health Plan, 1/15/09

Nation’s largest advocacy group for people with disabilities extols IEHP-sponsored collaborative - Disabilities Right California (DRC) recently honored the Inland Empire Health Plan-sponsored Disabilities Collaborative for its efforts in uniting and mobilizing organizations to better serve people with disabilities. ... The Sacramento-based group, formerly Protection & Advocacy, Inc., presented Ben Jauregui, IEHP Disabilities Program Manager, a certificate of recognition at its 30th Anniversary Open House in Los Angeles. Community partners, clients and legislative allies attended. ... “We congratulate the Disabilities Collaborative for its innovative and effective leadership in tackling the obstacles facing Californians with disabilities,” said Mary Rios, Multi-cultural Affairs Advocate for Disability Rights California.

Pro Publica, 1/13/09

National report released on restraint & seclusion of children - A disturbing new report issued by the congressionally mandated National Disability Rights Network documents incidents from across the country of a problem that fewer than half of states address: the restraint and seclusion of disabled school children. ... In California, Leslie Morrison, Disability Rights California’s leading investigative attorney, issued a June 2007 report documenting multiple cases of misuse of restraints, including that of a 10-year-old non-verbal boy who was tied to his wheelchair for hours and left on the school van on two separate occasions. Morrison's group championed legislation that would have mandated that only trained school personnel could restrain children - and only in instances in which the child's behavior put others at risk of physical harm.

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