An organization authorized by federal law to
advocate for people with
disabilities is suing the state for failure to provide necessary services to public school students with autism.
Lawyers for the Hawaii Disability Rights Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday against the state Department of Education and Department of Human Services.
Children and young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder require some level of applied behavior analysis services and DHS is required by federal law to provide the services to Medicaid-eligible individuals.
In the lawsuit, HDRC says DHS believes its policy is that the DOE is responsible for providing applied behavior analysis services to
Medicaid-eligibile students during school hours. The lawsuit goes on to say the DOE does not provide such services and prohibits private providers from accessing schools during school hours even when the services are paid for by Medicaid or private health insurers.
The DOE says it provides its students all services deemed appropriate and necessary, including applied behavior analysis.
The DHS says it had not yet received the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
This is not the first time HDRC has gone to federal court to assure applied
behavior analysis services for students.
The nonprofit corporation sued the state in 2014 on
behalf of a 5-year-old boy diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder and the boy’s mother, who was forced to pay out of pocket after the DHS denied her Medicaid coverage for the services. The parties settled the case last year after the DHS agreed the services were covered by Medicaid.
Since then, HDRC Executive Director Louis Erteschik says he has tried unsuccessfully to persuade the DOE
to allow DHS to provide
applied behavior analysis services to students. He said he has even testified at the state Capitol but that state lawmakers have refused to include any language in
legislation requiring the DOE to do so.