Missouri justices strike down home health law

Chris Rizo Jan. 14, 2009, 1:00am

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline)-A Missouri state law that bars some people with mental disabilities from participating in home health programs has been struck down.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that the 2005 law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against people with disabilities by providing state assistance to people with physical limitations but not to those who have guardians because of mental conditions.

In its decision written by Justice Richard Teitelman, the court noted that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits public entities from denying benefits or program participation to people because of their disabilities.

"Once unlawful discrimination is shown, the department must provide reasonable accommodation for the disability at issue," the court ruled. "Here, because the department did not raise any defense or present any evidence relating to the feasibility of accommodation, it waived this defense."

The case was brought by Barbara Bechtel who had been paid by the state to provide care for her adult daughter, Andrea Bechtel, who is physically and mentally disabled.

Barbara Bechtel was dropped from the state program that paid her for her daughter's home care after the 2005 law change.

The justices remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Bechtel was represented in the case by attorneys Nancy Emmel of Sindel & Emmel and by Anthony Rothert of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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