Olmstead News Sweeps NYS

NYAPRS Note: The long awaited NYS Olmstead Plan was released by Governor Cuomo last Friday, and media outlets have been reporting on the far-reaching impacts it will have. The Olmstead Plan details how the state will transition persons with disabilities into integrated community settings by reducing the use of institutional settings such as nursing homes, adult homes, and sheltered workshops. Please see below for stories in the Times Union and YNN News, as well as a link to an interview with Harvey Rosenthal of NYAPRS.

Harvey’s Inspiring Interview on YNN’s ‘State of Politics’: http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2012/12/nyaprss-harvey-rosenthal-on-the-olmstead-plan/

A shift toward the broader community
By Rick Karlin

Published 9:27 pm, Friday, October 11, 2013

The state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities expects by 2018 to have no more than 150 disabled New Yorkers residing in traditional state-run development centers, officials said Friday.

Currently, there are about 1,000 people in facilities such as Niskayuna's O.D. Heck Center. That complex is slated to close in 2015.

Among other changes on tap: increased rental assistance for those with disabilities, and the use of an existing ombudsman program that deals mostly with elderly nursing home residents to help oversee services for the disabled.

Over that five-year period, planners are also aiming to move 10 percent of the approximately 92,000 disabled people who now live in private nursing facilities into the broader community.

Those are among the plans discussed during a meeting of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Olmstead Cabinet. That group of state officials takes its name from a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled people with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses should be allowed to live in the broader community rather than institutions.

In keeping with the decision and as part of a long-term effort to streamline the state's Medicaid system, planners at OPWDD as well as the Office of Mental Health over the summer said they would be closing many of their remaining facilities, and instead concentrate on helping people live in their home communities.

Friday's meeting focused on a 30-page plan to achieve that goal. There will be more details as the plan develops, but so far members of the state's disability community are pleased with the concepts.

"This lays the groundwork for some very exciting things to happen,'' said Bruce Darling of the Rochester-based Center for Disability Rights. "This has been a long time coming."

Other changes include what officials said would be a broader universe of people who can administer medications — traditionally the province of medical personnel such as nurses.

"You can't live in the community if you constantly have to go back to a health care worker to receive the medications that you need," said Maggie Hoffman of the New York State Self-Determination Coalition.

Several speakers, including people who had previously been in state psychiatric hospitals or disability centers, said they would need keep close tabs on how the money for services is allocated.

"I am cautiously optimistic," said Todd Vaarwerk of the Independent Living Center in Buffalo, prompting chuckles from the crowd. "I never thought I'd be able to say that."

rkarlin@timesunion.com • 518-454-5758 • @RickKarlinTU


1999 Olmstead Decision Takes the Floor in Albany
Erin Vannella

The Olmstead Decision, a plan years in the making, is designed to help de-institutionalize people with disabilities. Friday, members of the cabinet who researched the plan presented their findings to the MISCC, or Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council. And those most likely to be affected by their findings were there to listen. Research shows transitioning out of institutions, ones like OD Heck in Schenectady, could provide opportunities for the disabled to get jobs and start families and for community members to better understand their new neighbors. Our Erin Vannella reports.

ALBANY, N.Y. - "In an institution, you're pretty much locked up," said Schenectady resident Clint Perrin.

"Somebody's telling you what time to go to bed, what time to get up in the morning," said Buffalo resident Todd Vaarwerk.

"They don't have a lot of freedom to move around," said Perrin.

"You move out in the community, expectations get larger," said Vaarwerk.

Answering the plea for integration, the governor's office and Olmstead Cabinet met Friday to discuss their next move toward making the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 decision a reality.

"There's always been goals to close institutions. Now it says we must close an institution by this date. So it sort of forces the situation," said NYS Self Advocacy Administration Administrative Director Steve Holmes.

What the governor calls a matter of civil rights is a plan to move people with disabilities out of more isolated environments and into the community, using money saved from the former to support the latter.

"In the past 10 years, in New York alone, moving people out of institutions to community based services and settings has saved the state over $10 billion," said Kingston resident Keith Gurgui.

But plan supporters accept change will take time and cooperation. But getting everyone, from the cabinet to the community, on the same page, they say, will be worth the wait.

"Everyone has something to offer. So to say that someone has nothing to offer is bologna," said Perrin.

"People with disabilities can think about having jobs and starting families and being parts of their community again," said Vaarwerk.

"You can make your choice. If you choose to be on the welcoming side, just don't say that's what you feel, actually do it," said Perrin.