A social worker in New Orleans sued the state of Louisiana after it banned her from helping families with special-needs children.
She’s banned not because she doesn’t have qualifications, the resources, the experience or the desire.
It’s because the state decided her help isn’t “needed.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation explained Ursula Newell-Davis has devoted her 20-year career to counseling young people with mental health needs and cognitive disabilities.
She’s a qualified social worker and has a son with special needs, so, the organization said, she has “seen that children with disabilities and their families need support, especially those who come from poorer backgrounds.”
Many special-needs children have parents who work odd shifts, so the children often are left home alone and can “fall in with the wrong crowd and turn to criminal activity.”
She set up a business that would teach at-risk children basic life skills for a few hours each week while their parents are away.
But the state refused to give her permission to operate when she applied for a Facility Need Review. Pacific Legal explained the review forces providers “to prove that they are needed — a nearly impossible task.”
“Requiring would-be providers to prove they are ‘needed’ isn’t about protecting the public health or safety; it’s about insulating existing providers from competition,” said Mollie Riddle, an attorney at Pacific Legal, which represents Davis free of charge. “Given that children are going without services that are essential to their well–being, the stakes are too high for the government to arbitrarily pick who can and cannot enter the market.”
The case against the state and its officials, including the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, Courtney Phillips, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Newell-Davis is unable to help children, the filing explains, solely because of “a state law that prioritizes incumbent businesses’ economic interests over plaintiffs constitutional rights and the health, safety and welfare of Louisiana children.”
It calls the state’s policy “simple, unconstitutional economic protectionism.”
The state has argued that the objective is to “control costs, improve quality, and increase access to care by reducing the number of providers,” the lawsuit points out.
What it actually does is the opposite, the complaint contends, because “by limiting providers from entering the market, the … requirement leads to a shortage of care and insulates existing providers from competition, which allows them to charge higher prices and deliver lower-quality services.”
The complaint alleges violations of due process and equal protection.
It charges the state with “artificially limiting supply based on whether a new provider will compete with existing respite providers,” and thus “increases costs, jeopardizes public health and safety, and decreases access to care.”
It seeks a declaration that the policy is unconstitutional.
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