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Feds Cite California For Laguna Honda Civil Rights Violations
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 3, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--The U.S. Department of Justice has found that the State of California is violating federal law by needlessly segregating people with disabilities in San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.

A Justice Department letter was sent Tuesday to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, informing him that the state is violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and failing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead ruling. That decision found that it is illegal to unnecessarily place and keep people with disabilities in nursing homes and other institutions.

Federal investigators found that the state routinely authorizes people to be placed into Laguna Honda without evaluating their ability to live in the community, and without informing them of the community alternatives available to them. Many people also remain at the nursing home long after they are eligible for community-based programs and services.

"The Supreme Court has made clear that unnecessary isolation of individuals with disabilities in institutions, including nursing homes, is discrimination that diminishes individuals' ability to lead full and independent lives," Acosta said in a statement. "The law requires, and we will ensure, that people with disabilities, like all Americans, have equal access and opportunity to participate in community life."

In April 2003, the Justice Department cited the city and county of San Francisco, which own Laguna Honda, over the same violations. It found at that time that dozens of the people housed there no longer had medical needs being met by the nursing facility.

The 135-year-old Laguna Honda Hospital is the oldest nursing facility in California. With 1,200 beds, it is the largest publicly-owned nursing home in the United States.

In 1999, San Francisco voters approved a bond to help pay for a new $401 facility to replace Laguna Honda.

In October 2001, approximately 600 activists from the disability rights group ADAPT and other groups from around the nation gathered in San Francisco to protest the plans to rebuild the aging facility.

In recent months, concerns have grown over a decision to transfer younger people with disabilities -- some with criminal histories -- from San Francisco General Hospital into Laguna Honda. In May, two members of a local street gang came into the nursing home and assaulted an older resident. The gang members had been called in by a 25-year-old resident who was angry that the man had changed the television station.

"Laguna Honda Hospital -- Largest Nursing Home In US" (Inclusion Daily Express)
"Investigation of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center" (U.S. Department of Justice)
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