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Summary of the Key Provisions of the
SEBASTIAN I. Settlement Agreement
-- In July 1998, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of infants and toddlers with disabilities whose early intervention ("EI") services from Philadelphia County's EI program had been delayed, or whose services had been interrupted once begun. That lawsuit has now been settled. This is a summary of the terms of the Agreement.
Definition of Plaintiff Class
-- As defined in the Agreement, "class members" are:
All eligible Philadelphia infants and toddlers with disabilities who have entered the County early intervention system since July 1, 1996, and who have encountered delays in the development of their Individualized Family Service Plans ("IFSPs"), or in the delivery of early intervention services, that were caused in whole or in part by the County; and infants and toddlers who may in the future encounter such delays.
For the purpose of the Agreement, an IFSP is delayed if it is developed more than forty-five (45) days after the infant or toddler is referred to the County. An EI service is delayed if: a) a service listed on an initial IFSP has not been delivered within ninety (90) days of the referral of the infant or toddler to the County; b) a service listed on a revised or annual IFSP has not been delivered within forty-five (45) days of its listing on an IFSP; or c) a service listed on an IFSP has been interrupted for thirty (30) or more days. The delay must have been caused in whole or in part by the County.
Commitments of the County and the PA Department of Public Welfare
-- Philadelphia County ("County") and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare ("Department") will assure that the IFSPs of infants and toddlers are developed within 45 days of referral; that infants and toddlers receive the services on their IFSPs on time; and that services are not interrupted once they are begun.
-- Every three months, the Department will decide in writing if the County is making "significant progress" in providing EI services on time. If the Department finds that there are still problems, it must specify the "corrective action" that the County or the Department must take.
Making up for Services That Were Missed
-- Class members are eligible to receive services to make up for services that were delayed, as defined in the Agreement, before they turned three, even if they are now over age 3. In order to qualify for such services, the family should request a team meeting. At the team meeting, the family and staff from the County will determine if the County, including the provider or Childlink, was responsible for the service delay or interruption and, if so, how to make up for the delay. The type and amount of such services for each child will be designed to make up for the services that were delayed or interrupted, and will consider the current needs of the child and the extent to which services were delayed. If the family and the County disagree about whether the child is eligible for such services, or what kind or how many services should be provided, the family can ask for mediation or a hearing to resolve the dispute.
-- A family that purchased services that were listed on the IFSP, because of a delay or interruption in such services, can be reimbursed. No meeting is necessary to qualify for reimbursement. The family will have to give the County receipts or other proof of out-of-pocket payments. If insurance was used to purchase these services, the family can get reimbursed for any deductible, increase in policy premiums or deductions from coverage limitations (such as an annual coverage cap for the child).
-- Service coordinators and provider staff will receive training on the terms of the Agreement. For the first 6 months of the Agreement, the County will send a specially trained staff person to each meeting, in addition to the service coordinator, who will be responsible for insuring that the meeting is conducted in accordance with the Agreement. The Department will send a staff person to the first 15 meetings, and more if necessary. County and provider staff who participate in the meetings will receive special training about the Agreement.
Notice to Class Members
-- Starting on March 1, 1999, the County will send letters to families of class members whose services were delayed, explaining that they can ask for a meeting to determine if the child qualifies for services to make up for services that were missed. Starting on April 15, 1999, letters will also be sent to families of class members whose services are interrupted for 30 or more days once they started.
-- Between March and August 31, 1999, the County will send letters to the families of class members whose services were delayed in the past.
Other Provisions of the Settlement Agreement
-- An IFSP must include all appropriate EI services needed by the infant or toddler, as determined by the IFSP team, and no such EI service can be left out of the IFSP just because no provider has been identified to provide that service.
-- An infant or toddler whose services have been delayed for 15 days beyond the time lines described above will get the personal attention of the leadership of the County EI system. If the problem isn't fixed within 7 more days, the County will contact the Department and the attorney for the plaintiff class.
-- The Agreement does not prevent a child whose IFSP services have been delayed for a shorter time from requesting services or reimbursement to make up for the delay.
-- The Agreement will apply to the County for two years, and will apply to the Department for 18 months. After the Agreement ends, the lawsuit will be dismissed but families will have the right to bring a new lawsuit if necessary.
If you would like to have a copy of the full Settlement Agreement, or have other questions, call the Education Law Center at 215-238-6975.
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