FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REACHES SETTLEMENT REGARDING CONDITIONS AT NEW JERSEY COUNTY NURSING HOME
WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Mercer County, New Jersey resolving the Department’s investigation of conditions and services at the Mercer County Geriatric Center, a 240-bed nursing home operated by Mercer County.
“Nursing home residents deserve dignity and respect for their rights,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When a county takes responsibility for the care of nursing home residents, it accepts responsibility to ensure that those residents’ constitutional rights are protected. We are confident that today’s agreement will accomplish swift and meaningful reforms.”
The three-year agreement, filed with the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, requires the county to overhaul its resident care and services. In addition, the agreement ensures that each resident is served in the most integrated setting appropriate to his or her needs, as required by the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. The Department’s focus on this area targets unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities.
The settlement agreement resulted from a findings letter issued by the Justice Department on October 9, 2002, describing unconstitutional conditions at the nursing home. The Justice Department found that the Mercer County nursing home exposed residents to unsafe living conditions and undue restraints, failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care, failed to provide residents with adequate nutrition and hydration, and failed to protect residents from unnecessary institutionalization.
The Department commends County Executive Brian Hughes for his willingness to work aggressively to address the conditions at the Mercer County nursing home.
Protecting the rights of institutionalized persons is a priority of the Department of Justice. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has opened 46 investigations-affecting 53 facilities-concerning the terms and conditions of confinement in nursing homes, mental health facilities, residences for persons with developmental disabilities, juvenile justice facilities, prisons, and jails. These figures represent a more than 30 percent increase in such investigations when compared to those initiated over the preceding four years.
The text of the settlement agreement and additional information about the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can be found at www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html. <http://www.usdoj.gov>