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Federal Judge Denies Appeal for Improved Aid to the Disabled

   |  Posted Mar 2nd, 2006 @ 6:31am


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that Utah's lengthy waiting list for disabled residents seeking aid does not violate federal law.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball declined to order the state to come up with a plan to provide help at what plaintiffs deemed a reasonable rate.

The lawsuit contended that people had to wait so long for services that it violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

State officials said those in the greatest need are served first, and budget limitations make it impossible to eliminate the wait.

Kimball said Wednesday that the disabled residents who sued the state failed to show they were at imminent risk of institutionalization because of a lack of support services.

He said compelling the Division of Services for People with Disabilities to serve everyone on the waiting list would constitute an impermissible request for accommodation that would interfere with a comprehensive, effectively working process.

There are about 1,750 people on the waiting list.

Kimball said the state would need at least $8 million more each year to provide immediate help to all on the list.

The division has a budget of approximately $167 million and served about 4,250 people last year.

One of the plaintiffs, Marialice Nielson, 73, said the decision "breaks my heart."

She said the family has "been waiting for almost 14 years for services for my son, who has epilepsy and mild mental retardation. Why is it so hard for DSPD to understand that they need to support families before there is a crisis?"

The Disability Law Center, which filed the suit, said $8.4 million from the state to fund the list would have generated a federal match of $21.42 million, created jobs and generated new tax revenue.

DSPD director George Kelner said the lawsuit required a lot of money that otherwise could have been spent developing solutions.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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