The settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the state means hundreds of Maine adults with autism and intellectual disabilities will receive housing and other support services through MaineCare.

The settlement, completed Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court, was welcomed by Gerald Petruccelli, the Portland attorney for the plaintiffs.

“The best of it was that we worked collaboratively with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General’s Office before things got too far down the legal path,” he said Monday.

The class of plaintiffs totaled 18, but as many as 1,000 people could benefit from the ruling, Petruccelli said. All of those who could potentially benefit are on a waiting list to receive MaineCare services, such as housing vouchers and other support.

When the lawsuit was filed in early 2013, many of the people who sought services had been on waiting lists for years, some since 2008. The DHHS said in response to the lawsuit that there was not enough money in the budget to cover those services, so they ended up being deferred.

The state’s share of the cost of providing services to the people affected by the settlement is expected to be about $7 million.


MaineCare is the state’s name for Medicaid, which provides medical services for low-income residents. Funding for the program is a blend of federal and state dollars.

Petruccelli said that while the LePage administration agreed to the settlement, there were no promises on how money would be generated or shifted to pay for the adult autism services.

“We did not get into specifics of how they were going to do it,” Petruccelli said. “That’s the job of the Legislature and the administration.”

DHHS spokesman David Sorensen said he was aware of the settlement, but that DHHS would have no comment at this time.

Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, House chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, believes there’s enough flexibility in the MaineCare budget to pay for the services. For instance, the Legislature this year set aside $20 million to help fund the troubled Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. The Legislature convenes in January.

Farnsworth sees the settlement as good news for families in dire need of help.


“These are people the governor has talked about many times needing help and support, and this is an important opportunity to get them the help that they deserve,” he said.

Petruccelli said parents of adults with autism or intellectual disabilities do a “heroic” job, but as they age they need more support services to care for their children.

He said over the next several months, it will become clear how many people will qualify for help and how much it will cost the state.


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