OCR Resolves Complaints after State of Connecticut and Private Hospital Safeguard the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Have Reasonable Access to Support Persons in Hospital Settings During COVID-19
“Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces that it has reached an Early Case Resolution (ECR) with the State of Connecticut after the state issued an executive order regarding non-visitation policies for short-term hospitals, outpatient clinics, and outpatient surgical facilities to ensure that people with disabilities are not denied reasonable access to needed support persons. OCR also reached an ECR with Hartford Hospital after it agreed to grant a 73-year old woman with aphasia access to support persons to help with her communication and comprehension in her treatment.
In May 2020, OCR received complaints from Disability Rights Connecticut, CommunicationFIRST, the Arc of Connecticut, Independence Northwest: Center for Independent Living of Northwest CT, Center for Public Representation, and The Arc of the USA alleging that Connecticut guidance regarding hospital visitation for people with disabilities violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which are enforced by OCR.
The complainants alleged that Connecticut guidance concerning hospital “no visitor” policies during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed only narrow exceptions for support persons for individuals with disabilities receiving certain services from the state Department of Developmental Services (DDS), leaving large groups of persons with disabilities unable to avail themselves of the exception. The complainants alleged that without support persons, specific patients with disabilities in Connecticut facilities were being denied equal access to medical treatment, effective communication, the ability to make informed decisions and provide consent, and that they were being unnecessarily subjected to physical and pharmacological restraints.
Complainants also alleged that Hartford Hospital, a 937-bed facility in the state, unlawfully failed to provide a reasonable modification to the hospital’s no-visitor policy to a 73-year old patient with aphasia and severe short-term memory loss, who is mostly non-verbal, and was denied in-person access to support persons able to help with her communication and comprehension during care. The patient did not fall under the exception to no-visitor policies under Connecticut’s guidance because she did not receive services from the state DDS.
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