Florida Is under a Federal Court Order to Place Its Developmentally Disabled People into Appropriate Facilities within Five Months. the Money Needed to Do So Is Staggering. but Waiting Means Families Have. A Struggle for Care Southside Mother Worries What Future Holds for Son

By Halton, Beau | The Florida Times Union, March 19, 1998 | Go to article overview

Florida Is under a Federal Court Order to Place Its Developmentally Disabled People into Appropriate Facilities within Five Months. the Money Needed to Do So Is Staggering. but Waiting Means Families Have. A Struggle for Care Southside Mother Worries What Future Holds for Son


Halton, Beau, The Florida Times Union


Eighty-one-year-old Frances Bridgeman tried to wash her son

David McBee's face and hands yesterday in their Southside

Jacksonville kitchen.

He wrapped his head tightly in his arms and twisted his body

away from her. No way was she getting near him with that

washcloth.

"Oh David," she said, smiling, resigned to his stubbornness. "

. . . Here, you take the cloth." He refused.

Bridgeman has been trying to wash her son's face and hands for

43 years. Sometimes he relents; usually he rebels. Once when she

wouldn't let him have the plastic bag she was using to shake

chicken pieces in flour, he ran his head through a window. He

needed 39 stitches to mend the deep gashes.

McBee, who is severely mentally retarded and has Down syndrome,

is one of 753 developmentally disabled people in the

Jacksonville area and 8,700 statewide who are at home or

elsewhere waiting for subsidized professional care.

Florida is under a federal court order to arrange full-time

care for them within about five months. Officials say it could

cost up to $750 million a year in Florida to provide that care.

A 1992 lawsuit was filed in Miami on behalf of 13 mentally

retarded Floridians who were eligible for Medicaid and had been

waiting five to 10 years for residential care. In response, a

panel of federal appellate judges issued its order last month.

Of those waiting for care in the Jacksonville area, about 100

need to be in intermediate care facilities, live-in centers

that provide full-time care. About 220 are already in the

facilities.

"It may not sound like a lot of people, but when you talk about

paying for it, it's a lot of money," said Jerry Martin,

Jacksonville area administrator for the state Department of

Children & Families' developmental services division.

It costs up to $80,000 a year to have one person in an

intermediate care facility, he said. Jacksonville has three

"cluster" intermediate care facilities, each of which can handle

24 people, in addition to group homes. St. Augustine has a

cluster facility that can take 60.

"People wait for years to get into one of these centers,"

Martin said. "It all gets down to money. . . . We try to move as

many people as possible into apartment living or with families

who can take them in. That way they can get jobs if they're

able, and it opens up spaces at the ICFs."

Florida ranks 29th in the nation in numbers of developmentally

disabled people awaiting intermediate care facilities or similar

treatment, according to The Arc, one of the country's biggest

advocacy organizations for mentally retarded people.

In Florida, 44.3 people per 100,000 are waiting for

intermediate care, according to The Arc. Georgia is 31st, with

41 per 100,000 needing the care. Louisiana is the neediest

state, with 320.3 per 100,000. California, Kansas, Nevada and

Rhode Island reported having no waiting lists.

"And the real waiting lists may be a lot longer than any of the

states report," said Marcia Simmons, assistant director of

ARC/Florida, the state division of The Arc. "These numbers

reflect the people who are on states' waiting lists. A lot of

people don't even apply; they know there's no funding for

services."

By failing to provide prompt care to all eligible individuals,

Florida is violating the federal Medicaid Act, according to the

Feb. 26 ruling written by Chief Judge Joseph Hatchett of the

11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles federal cases from

Florida, Georgia and Alabama. …

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