KATIE A. v. BONTA
The class action known as Katie A. v. Bonta was filed in July 2002. It challenges California’s failure to provide home-based and community-based mental health services to children who are in the foster care system or at risk of removal from their families. Of special concern is California’s practice of confining children with mental health needs in hospitals and large group homes instead of providing services that would enable them to stay in their own homes and communities.
In 2003, Los Angeles County settled its portion of the lawsuit, agreeing to close the notorious MacLaren Children’s Center and develop appropriate services in the community. However, an expert panel found in August 2005 that the county had not yet even developed a plan to provide community services to the 50,000 children in its foster care system–the nation’s largest. In an effort to refocus the county’s efforts, lawyers for the children asked the district judge to compel the county to comply with the settlement agreement.
In November 2006, the district judge ordered Los Angeles County to address deficiencies in its implementation plan and to report regularly to the expert panel, plaintiffs and the court on progress in implementing the plan. As part of the implementation process, the County committed an additional $90 million for home- and community-based services. Also, the parties reached agreement on Practice Principles for delivery of community services to class members in Los Angeles County and an operational definition of those services.
In March 2006, Judge Matz granted the plaintiffs’ request to give health and social services agencies 30 days to develop a plan and another 30 days to begin providing the two most critical services statewide: family-based “wraparound” and therapeutic foster care (TFC).
However, in March 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded Judge Matz’ order on narrow grounds. The plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for preliminary injunction.
On January 11, 2008, the plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for preliminary injunction, asking Judge Matz to provide wraparound services and therapeutic foster care to children in or at risk of entering foster care. The motion was filed to address the issues raised by a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that reversed and remanded on narrow grounds Judge Matz’ March 2006 order granting the plaintiffs’ first Motion for Preliminary Injunction. On September 22, 2008, Judge Matz ordered the parties to meet promptly and report back to him by October 29 on how wraparound services can be covered by Medi-Cal and properly billed—thereby ensuring that mental health care providers will be reimbursed for delivering these critical services to children in foster care. On April 15, 2009, Judge Matz appointed a special master to facilitate agreement between the parties.
In a groundbreaking settlement on September 27, 2011, the parties agreed to a proposal that will provide intensive home- and community-based mental health services for children in foster care or at risk of removal from their families. The State will make available intensive home-based services and intensive care coordination under Medicaid and will determine what parts of therapeutic foster care are covered by Medicaid and provide that service to Medicaid-eligible children as needed.