Federal judge orders state benefits restored
SEATTLE — A federal judge has ordered Washington state to restore services to nearly 1,000 disabled and elderly adults, at least temporarily.
Facing a serious budget crisis, the state Legislature earlier this year cut funding for a state program that provides social and medical therapy to vulnerable adults living at home or in community residential services.
Twenty-seven adults affected by the cuts sued the state in a case later certified as a class-action lawsuit.
District Court Judge Richard A. Jones issued a temporary injunction Friday to restore benefits to the Department of Health and Social Services Adult Day Health services.
He said the state violated due process rights by not giving clients proper notice.
“The court also understands that certain budgetary decisions must be made that may adversely impact certain classes of our citizenry,” Jones wrote. “The court will not, however, countenance such decisions when their implementation violates fundamental due process rights. The record is clear that DSHS’s termination actions did not comport with due process.”
The ruling said DSHS must restore the benefits until the agency makes reassessments of individual needs, gives information about alternative services and issues timely notices.
DSHS has defended the cuts, saying the needs of these individuals must be weight against those with equal or greater needs.
“The sudden loss of skilled services has been devastating for many of these very frail and vulnerable people,” Louise Ryan, a spokeswoman for Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, told The Seattle Times.
Ryan said people who had lost services should contact their provider immediately.
Quincy Proctor, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told KING-TV said the state cut funding that paid for nurses and therapists who were helping him walk again after a stroke.
“It will help me, help myself,” said Proctor. “All those people who tried to help me, they were not doing it in vain.”
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