Judge OKs lawsuit by deaf Ga. residents

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ATLANTA — A federal judge is allowing a federal lawsuit against the state filed by deaf Georgia residents who are challenging the state's mental health policy to move forward.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story's decision certifies a class-action lawsuit by Georgia citizens who are in need of mental health services but cannot receive them because they are deaf.

The lawsuit claims the state needs to hire more counselors trained in sign language and devote more funding for group homes for hundreds of deaf residents in need of specialized mental health care.

There are some 17,435 deaf residents in Georgia and a fraction of those have severe mental needs. State officials say there are 200 or so residents in that category, while the lawsuit contends there could be as many as 1,000.

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