To subscribe to The Times go to https://help.shreveporttimes.com/subscription-services Henrietta Wildsmith, Shreveport Times
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a class action lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Health claiming it has failed to provide mental health services to Medicaid-eligible children and families in the state.
The complaint was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Louisiana and names Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, and the department as defendants.
The suit seeks a court order to require the state to fulfill its obligation under law to provide the necessary services for children with mental health needs and to prevent the unnecessary risk of institutionalization. It also asks for a grant class certification to include all Medicaid-eligible children and youth under the age of 21 with a psychiatric illness, including children with severe emotional disturbances.
It was filed by SPLC and its partners at the National Health Law Program (NHeLP); the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), the Advocacy Center of Louisiana; and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, on behalf of the children and their parents.
“We’re filing this lawsuit because the state’s failure to provide these critical mental health services, as required by federal law, is further harming children and youth,” said Kimberly Lewis, an attorney for the National Health Law program, in a news release.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are children who have intensive mental health needs that are reportedly not being met or have been institutionalized in facilities far from their families and communities.
“Instead of addressing the mental health conditions of children and youth by providing services and supports they need to succeed at home, in school and in their community, the state’s failure to provide these services is resulting in them unnecessarily cycling through hospitals and institutions, or ending up in the juvenile justice system,” Lewis said.
“These children and youth deserve a better chance for success.”
One of the plaintiffs, named in the document as “B.B.”, is a 13-year-old Medicaid recipient who lives in Caddo Parish. The teen is diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and conditions, according to the court document.
“B.B.’s mental health needs have gone untreated to the point that she is at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization,” it read.
Another plaintiff, a 13-year-old Medicaid recipient living in Rapides Parish, named “D.D.”, also is diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and conditions. He has mental health needs that have gone untreated and is at the point where is at “imminent and unnecessary institutionalization.”
D.D. is in need for constant medical attention because he has a pacemaker, according to the court document.
“The Techniques used in institutional placement are even less appropriate for him than other children because of his heart condition,” the document read.
Other children listed as plaintiffs are from East Baton Rouge, Terrebonne and Pointe Coupee parishes. Their ages range from 11 to 13 years old.
“These children deserve the dignity of receiving quality mental health services that allows them to lead healthy and productive lives in their homes and communities,” Victor Jones, SPLC senior supervising attorney, said in a news release.
“In Louisiana, children with mental health needs are frequently placed in hospitals and other facilities that do not adequately address their needs. We are filing this lawsuit on behalf of the approximately 47,500 children in the state who are in need of intensive home and community-based services, which the state is obligated to provide.”
Kelly Zimmerman, press secretary at the Louisiana Department of Health, told The Times the department is unable to comment on current litigation.
See the court document here:
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