Case involving medically fragile children could have far-reaching impact

By Robert Nott: Complete Post through this link…

A federal judge has ordered the state Human Services Department to ensure in-home nursing services to two medically fragile children whose parents had questioned whether the agency had fulfilled an obligation to provide care under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In a preliminary injunction ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Strickland gave the state agency 30 days to inform both the court and the plaintiffs of the steps it was taking to fulfill the court mandate.

Though Strickland did not lay out specific remedies, she wrote in her ruling it could include “making good faith attempts to attract qualified nurses from other states” and “increased monitoring of Plaintiffs’ weekly shortfalls” in nursing care and other support programs.

The case may have ramifications far beyond the original complaint. Strickland’s ruling says there are around 50 families alleged to be lacking in private-duty nursing services.

The crux of the case, initiated in April 2022, centers on whether the Human Services Department provided enough private-duty nurses for three medically fragile children in the Albuquerque area. One of the three, diagnosed with a rare genetic neurological disorder, died in May.

The program provides private duty nursing, home health aides, physical and speech therapy and occupational therapy, among other services, to individuals under the age of 22 who live in their homes and have been determined to have both a medically fragile condition and a developmental disability.

The original complaint says all three children were eligible to receive medically necessary private nursing services from three managed-care organizations named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the Human Services Department.

The three providers are Western Sky Community Care, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico and Presbyterian Health Plan.

The complaint said by failing to provide the medical services, the department “exposed plaintiffs to the unnecessary isolation and to the risk of institutionalization or hospitalization — actions in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.”

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