A local resident has joined several others statewide in a lawsuit against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) recently filed the suit against the FSSA. The lawsuit is in regard to the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program. Clay County resident Edna Chadwell is listed among the plaintiffs in the case along with several other Indiana residents.
"The (program) has been around for some time in Indiana," ACLU Attorney Gavin M. Rose said via e-mail. "Its purpose is to permit Medicaid recipients who would otherwise require institutionalization for their conditions -- whether that be in a nursing home, a hospital or another facility -- to receive services in their home or a community-based setting.
"Obviously, many individuals with serious disabilities would far prefer to not be institutionalized, and the waiver program has traditionally been a wonderful way for that to happen. However, every five years, the waiver program must be renewed by (FSSA) and the renewal must be approved by the United States Department of Health and Human Services."
According to Rose, when the program was renewed this year, the FSSA included a limitation on the number of "attendant care" hours that enrollees may receive for the first time.
"They limited these services to 40 hours a week," he said. "These are services that individuals, such as the plaintiffs in our case require in order to eat, drink, bathe, toilet, run errands, prepare meals, or really just remain in a safe and secure environment. And until this year, many individuals enrolled in the (program) received more than 40 hours a week in such services."
Rose said the lawsuit was brought upon in direct challenge to the 40-hour-a-week caps.
"By limiting the number of hours that individuals enrolled in the program may receive, the (FSSA) has implemented a system wherein the most seriously disabled individuals are now forced to at least consider institutionalization against their wishes," he said. "It represents discrimination by a state agency against those most in need of the agency's services."
According to Rose, a hearing will take place in Brazil at 9 a.m., Nov. 26. During the court proceedings, each plaintiff will either testify in person or by signed affidavit.
Rose said the state may choose to respond to the lawsuit prior to the hearing, either by filing a formal answer, moving to dismiss the lawsuit or removing the case to federal court.
FSSA Deputy Director of Communications and Media Liz Surgener said the organization will continue to serve those who have filed the lawsuit.
"The plaintiffs are waiver services recipients," Surgener said. "FSSA will not reduce the plaintiff's services while the lawsuit is in progress. (They) will continue to receive services at their previous levels pending the outcome of the lawsuit."
Rose said if the state moves to dismiss the lawsuit, the Nov. 26 hearing would likely also be on the motion to dismiss. He added if the state removes the case to federal court, a different date is expected.
"If the courts rule in our favor, these caps will be struck down and the plaintiffs will again be permitted to request additional attendant care hours," Rose said.
In August, Chadwell informed The Brazil Times of her situation. She is confined to a wheelchair and physically dependant upon others for assistance with basic needs.