KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two years after nine families sued the Missouri Department of Social Services for failing to provide care to disabled children, a settlement has been reached.
The state announced Thursday that the parties had made an agreement in the S.J, et. al v. Knodell case on Aug. 21, promising to provide disabled children with complete in-home nursing care in a substantial, immediate manner. The court also mandated the defendants would pay $5,000 of the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees.
The complaint was filed in March 2020 on behalf of the minor children who "are alive because of dramatic medical advances over the past few decades," the document reads.
Yet, the plaintiffs alleged the state failed to provide promised and necessary care.
According to the filing, each of the children have complications that require constant assistance eating, toileting, bathing, dressing and moving. Failure to arrange care comes from flaws at a "systemic level," which the settlement hopes to address.
The children, all Medicaid beneficiaries, entered the suit alongside the Caring for Complex Kids Coalition, an association of parents in Missouri.
Complaints in the suit range from children receiving a fraction of the care they received to never getting them at all.
One plaintiff, an 18-year-old referred to as "G.T.," did not receive the short-term in home health care Social Services had deemed necessary after a hospital stay.
Subsequently, the G.T. returned to the hospital less than a month later with complications that her father believes are a result of the state's failure to provide.
In the settlement, the state agreed to provide monthly reports to the Bureau of Special Health Care Needs and create an implement a plan that addresses its barriers to properly implement in-home care. The signed document also decreed that coordinators must be involved in hospital discharge plans, when appropriate.
If a child does not receive the services he or she requires, Social Services must then work with the guardians to implement a suitable back-up plan.
In the Thursday afternoon release, Todd Richardson, Director of Social Service's MO HealthNet Division, said his department is working with the families to actively identify ways to improve its practices.
"We look forward to continuing our work together to improve resources not only for those involved in this case, but to all MO HealthNet participants," he said.
The grandmother of M.S., one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the settlement was a "big step forward" because it allows children to receive care while remaining with their families. She concurred that the families are continuing to aid the state in bettering its programs.
"Our goal, like the goal of every family, is to make sure our children can thrive and flourish," she said.
And while the Jane Perkins, legal director of the National Health Law Program, said the agreement was a victory for Missouri children, her agency will continue for fight for what she believes is a nationwide issue.
"The stark reality is that there are Medicaid-enrolled children with complex medical needs in states across the country who are not receiving the in-home nursing care they need," she said.