James Straub

Agreement Reached in Independent Living Lawsuit

James Straub
Jake Van Meter, 28, focuses on his English literature class Monday at the Hancock County Higher Education Center in Ellsworth.

ELLSWORTH — An agreement reached in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has brought plaintiffs a step closer to reaching their goal of living in appropriate housing and pursuing a more independent lifestyle.

The lawsuit was initially brought in December 2009 by three men with cerebral palsy who claimed they were unlawfully confined in nursing homes because the DHHS, through its Medicaid program, violated federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Nursing Home Reform Act.

The three initial plaintiffs are Jake Van Meter, 28, who lives in a nursing home in Ellsworth, Adam Fletcher, 30, who lives in a nursing home in Freeport, and Eric Reeves, 33, who lives in a nursing home in Penobscot.

The case was granted class-action status by a federal court judge and now includes more than 40 members.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination.

Although individuals with the condition often require assistance with physical tasks such as dressing, feeding and mobility, the disorder does not affect cognitive function.

The lawsuit alleges that the DHHS failed to offer people with cerebral palsy and other related conditions opportunities to live outside of nursing homes.

The plaintiffs also claimed that for those who live outside of nursing homes, the DHHS has failed to provide necessary services required by federal law.

For more of the latest news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

James Straub

Reporter at Ellsworth American
Former Ellsworth American reporter James Straub covered the towns on Deer Isle and the Blue Hill Peninsula. He lives in Brooklin.