PORTLAND – The state Department of Health and Human Services has reached a settlement with plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit over services to help people with certain disabilities live more independently.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by three men with cerebral palsy. Jacob Van Meter, Adam Fletcher and Eric Reeves alleged that they were being confined to nursing homes even though they were capable of going to school, working and participating in community activities.

The men, in their 20s and 30s, argued that the state failed to provide services that would allow them to be more integrated into their communities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and laws regarding Medicaid, nursing homes and civil rights.

Last year, the case was certified as a class action on behalf of people with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and related conditions that make them eligible to live in nursing homes. The class has 121 members.

The plaintiffs had a strong case and likely would have prevailed at least in part had the case gone to trial, wrote U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen in her order approving the settlement Wednesday. The settlement gives the plaintiffs nearly everything they sued over, she wrote.

As part of the settlement, the DHHS has committed to offering home- and community-based services to people who are living in nursing homes or are at risk of having to move into nursing homes. The department has agreed to offer services to at least 75 people over five years.

“They’ll be pretty much directing their own lives, whereas in the nursing home it’s very regimented,” said Jack Comart, litigation director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, which helped bring the lawsuit, along with the Disability Rights Center and the McTeague Higbee law firm.

Comart said the plaintiffs likely will be out of nursing homes and in apartments or group homes within six to nine months. The state will have to get approval from the federal government, which Comart said is a routine matter, then determine who is moving out when and who will provide the services.

Torresen noted in her order that the state already has started to comply with many of the settlement’s provisions.

“Class members will have a greater range of opportunities when the community living program is approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew in a statement. “In addition, the department is committed to reviewing its assessment process for services that will comprise a continuous and active treatment program.”

Van Meter is now 28 and living in Ellsworth. Reeves is 35 and living in Bangor. Fletcher is 30 and living in Freeport.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH