August 14, 2018 – The Bazelon Center, along with co-counsel Disability Rights DC at University Legal
Services (the protection and advocacy agency for the District of Columbia), the National Center for
Youth Law, and law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel, filed a class action complaint in federal district court on
behalf of hundreds of District of Columbia children who are unnecessarily institutionalized or at serious
risk of institutionalization. The complaint challenges widespread failures of the District of Columbia’s
children’s mental health system to provide federally required intensive community-based services for
children in their own homes, schools, and elsewhere in the community. As a result, the District’s
children suffer drastically curtailed life opportunities, cycling in and out of psychiatric hospitals,
psychiatric residential treatment facilities that are often hundreds or thousands of miles away from their
families, other residential treatment centers, juvenile detention facilities, and group homes.

The class action complaint alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the
Medicaid Act. The ADA requires the District to serve its children with disabilities in the most integrated
setting appropriate. For virtually all children, this setting is their own home or another family or foster
home. The Medicaid Act requires the District to provide intensive community-based services to all
children with mental health disabilities who need them, to help them live in their own homes and
communities, and participate fully in family and community life.

“Whether by active neglect or sheer complacency, the District has abjectly failed hundreds of its most
vulnerable children and their families,” said Lewis Bossing, senior staff attorney at the Bazelon Center
for Mental Health Law. “The system has not worked to prevent bad outcomes for DC kids. Longstanding
federal law requires the District to provide these children essential intensive community-based services
in their own homes and schools. The District must make this an urgent priority.”

Disability Rights D.C.’s Report

DCist Article


U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia


August 14, 2018




M.J., by and through her next friend J.J., L.R., by and through her next friend D.M., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated; and University Legal Services, Inc.


The District of Columbia; Muriel Bowser, Mayor, in her official capacity; Tanya A. Royster, Director, District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health, in her official capacity; and Wayne Turnage, Director, District of Columbia Department of Health Care Finance, in his official capacity.