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Laguna Honda Plaintiffs Celebrate Settlement's Final Approval
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 22, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--Hundreds of current and potential residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center will be given the choice to live in accessible housing in the community now that a federal judge has granted final approval to a landmark disability rights settlement.

U.S. District Court Judge William H. Alsup gave approval last Thursday to the agreement that settles a class action suit filed by California's Protection and Advocacy, Inc. against the City and County of San Francisco on behalf of six Laguna Honda residents with disabilities. That suit, also brought by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, AARP Foundation Litigation, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the law firm of Howrey LLP, claimed that the residents were illegally segregated in the nursing facility, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with no chance to use their long-term care money for in-home supports.

The settlement calls for establishing a program to fund up to 500 accessible housing units over the next five years for Laguna Honda residents and people who would be at risk of being institutionalized at the facility.

Officials said the community-based housing would save the city and county a lot of money in the long run.

While the settlement affects those segregated at Laguna Honda, the long-term impact could be much broader in scope.

"This settlement will not only bring about changed circumstances for class members, but a changed mindset about disability and independence, dignity and community integration," said DREDF's Directing Attorney Arlene Mayerson in a press release. "It is a step forward in recognizing that individuals with disabilities are not just 'patients', but full members of our communities."

The 139-year-old Laguna Honda Hospital is the oldest nursing facility in California. With more than 1,000 beds, it is the largest publicly owned nursing home in the United States.

In October 2001, approximately 600 disability rights activists from ADAPT and other groups from across the country gathered in San Francisco to protest the city's plans to rebuild the aging facility. The U.S. Department of Justice said in May 2003 that San Francisco violated the rights of people housed at Laguna Honda by not providing them with the choice to live in the community.

Groundbreaking Settlement Agreement with San Francisco (DREDF)
Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement Agreement (DREDF)
"Laguna Honda Hospital -- Largest Nursing Home In US" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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