Denial of Services Becomes Deadly Barrier to Justice

University Legal Services, the protection and advocacy system for the District of Columbia, recently published a report about Mr. Johnson (alias) who died in February of this year. 

The tragedy of this story is that Mr. Johnson’s caregiver had initiated paperwork for services sometime between 2000 and 2001 – YEARS AGO! The initial request was denied. After the denial, additional requests were submitted resulting in additional barriers.

Finally in early 2007, Family and Child Services, Inc. (FCS) of Washington, D.C. was called in. FCS and Mr. Johnson’s court-appointed guardian sought services for Mr. Johnson – including emergency residential care.

On his own, Mr. Johnson was: 

  • unable to appropriately monitor his medications;
  • unable to properly clean and maintain his home; and
  • unable to observe proper bodily hygiene.

Mr. Johnson’s living conditions as relayed in the report A Deplorable Death  are astonishingly horrific.

The fact that CFS and his guardian were unable to secure appropriate residential care for him is abominable. The application for the emergency residential care was originally submitted in June 2007. After much delay, he was found eligible for services in November 2007 but the assessment for necessary services was not requested until January 2008. The assessment, dated February 12, 2008, revealed that Mr. Johnson was eligible for ICF-MR services.

NOTE: ICF-MR residential services are considered some of the most intensive services within the continuum of residential services for people with developmental disabilities. An ICF-MR offers 24 hour care and supervision.

On February 19, 2008, one week after being found eligible for ICF-MR services, Mr. Johnson was found unconscious in his apartment and was taken to a hospital.

Mr. Johnson never regained consciousness and died on February 23, 2008.

On February 29, 2008, Mr. Johnson’s guardian informed his DDA caseworker of Mr. Johnson’s death.

DDA then offered to pay for Mr. Johnson’s burial, through their burial assistance program.

Please take a moment to read about Mr. Johnson and consider the ramifications when someone is denied access to legal representation. The result may not be as severe, but let’s not take that chance. Support your local legal services entity, your local protection and advocacy system, your local Bar Foundation!

You may save a life.



SC Legal Services –

Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. –

SC Bar Foundation –

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