Shook, working with various agencies, has negotiated a settlement with the State of Kansas to improve the lives of the mentally ill living in, or at risk of being admitted to Nursing Facilities for Mental Health (NFMH).
Under the agreement, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will provide supports and services to allow people with mental health disabilities to avoid institutionalization and live in community-based, integrated settings. Kansas, over the next eight years, will develop and expand a wide range of mental health services for NFMH residents, as well as integrated community services throughout Kansas. The reforms will include the creation of several hundred supported housing units; mobile crisis and assertive community treatment teams; supported employment programs; and peer support services.
“This agreement proves that when we focus on common goals, seemingly adverse parties can work together to find paths forward,” said Shook Attorney Zachary Parker, who helped the parties reach an agreement. “While there is plenty of work to be done, this agreement creates a framework with data-dependent benchmarks for improving the lives of Kansans receiving mental health treatment.”
In 2019, a study found significant problems existed in NFMHs in Kansas, the only state in the country to establish nursing facilities segregating people with mental health disabilities, which is a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, a civil rights organization for people with disabilities, and the Disability Rights Center of Kansas began negotiations with the State seeking to ensure that the rights of NFMH residents are protected.
“Everyone should be able to choose how they live as they age and not be forced into institutionalized settings,” said AARP Foundation Senior Vice President for Litigation William Alvarado Rivera. “This agreement is a critical first step toward reforming how we serve older adults with mental illness in the community.”
Shook, along with the AARP Foundation, the Disability Rights Center of Kansas and the Center for Public Representation represented the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center in negotiations.
Various news outlets covered the settlement including the Associated Press, KCUR and the Lawrence Journal - World. Missouri Lawyers Weekly wrote, “Shook Aids in Nursing Home Settlement With Kansas.”