Thousands of Texans with disabilities housed in nursing homes without access to rehabilitative care could see improved living conditions under an interim agreement reached with the state on Monday.

The class action lawsuit, filed in 2010 by disability rights advocates and six institutionalized plaintiffs between the ages of 26 and 46, alleges that Gov. Rick Perry and state social services officials have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide appropriate treatment to some 4,500 Texans living in nursing homes. 

Garth Corbett, a senior attorney with the watchdog group Disability Rights Texas and the lead attorney on the case, told the Tribune in 2010 that many of those individuals were receiving care for their disabilities at home or in the community but were mistakenly sent to nursing homes after being hospitalized for illness. Once there, he said, they were effectively trapped, since many did not have advocates or the capacity to argue for their own transfer.

Under the interim agreement, the state has committed to expanding community living options for people with intellectual disabilities; avoiding admitting individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities to a nursing facility if those people can safely live in the community instead; and devising educational activities to address community living options for affected individuals and their families. 

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“We are pleased that Texas is now taking steps to allow individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live in the community, where they can fully participate in community life,” Yvette Ostolaza, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. Ostolaza, with the Dallas firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, represented the plaintiffs pro bono, alongside Disability Rights Texas and the Center for Public Representation.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.   

Editor's Note: This story originally stated that Corbett worked for Advocacy, Inc., which changed its name to Disability Rights Texas. It has been corrected.

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