An advocacy group for the mentally retarded sued the state on Tuesday, claiming Connecticut has violated Medicaid and Americans with Disabilities laws by leaving people in need of residential placement and services on a long waiting list.

Almost 16,000 mentally retarded people are on the state’s waiting list, Arc/CT Director Peg Dignoti said. Some of those individuals live in institutions and are waiting for community placement; others live with caregivers, waiting for an open spot.

Arc/CT and the families of 10 individuals on the waiting lists filed the class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Peter H. O’Meara, state Commissioner of Mental Retardation, and Patricia A. Wilson-Coker, commissioner of Social Services.

The lawsuit alleges that keeping individuals on a waiting list for years denies them their rights under federal law to the services that integrate people with disabilities into communities.

Arc has lobbied the state Legislature for more funding to expand services, Dignoti said. Arc estimates the money allocated this year to mental retardation won’t be enough to cover the 200 emergency placements that occur each year.

Both the Department of Mental Retardation and the Department of Social Services said they received the complaint but had not had a chance to review the lawsuit.

Numerous other states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, New Mexico and Washington, face similar lawsuits over lengthy waiting lists.

–Associated Press