NYAPRS Note: Despite prominent news coverage, legal settlements and litigation and years of advocacy, thousands of adult home residents still await the promise of realizing their right to live in the most integrated settings in their home communities. See below for how this issue has reverberated in court rooms and in Albany over the past few weeks.
Accordingly, self and system advocates for adult home residents are coming to Albany this Wednesday to call on state officials to keep their promise to support their peers to live in the community. One has only to experience Coco’s story at https://youtu.be/T9o0sKUkI0A to appreciate what it’s like for a resident to assume the dignity and independence of life in her own apartment in the City.
NYS Adult Home Residents with Psychiatric Disabilities Still Wait for NYS
to Keep Its Commitment to Support Them to Live in Most Integrated Community Settings
NYAPRS March 13, 2017
In 2002, the New York Times’ Cliff Levy wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative series exposing NYS policy failures regarding New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities, many of whom had been wrongly discharged from state hospitals into inappropriate if not abusive adult home institutional settings in NYC, in violation of their ADA rights to live in the most integrated community settings. See for Cliff’s first article in the series at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/28/nyregion/for-mentally-ill-death-and-misery.html
After years of unsuccessful legal action and legislative advocacy with previous Governors, the Cuomo Administration took two very important actions:
- It stepped forward and reached a legal settlement agreement to help move about 4,500 residents to more independent and normalizing community settings and
- It promulgated a regulation that would stop referrals of people with psychiatric disabilities into adult homes with censuses of 25 or more adult home residents, in contrast to the several hundred who currently live in several of them.
Taken together, these actions essentially closed the front door of these institutions to New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities and opened the back door wide to afford them their rights to live out of institutions and into the community apartments with supports.
Despite the terms of the state’s legal settlement, NYS state agencies have helped only 475 of these residents transition to community based apartments since 2014, despite allocations of state financial and staff resources and new housing beds. That’s 475 or 10% of the now 5,000 residents who fit the terms of the settlement.
While one reason given is that residents no longer express a desire to leave, advocates believe that residents have become discouraged by years of broken promises and a lack of sufficient ‘motivational interviewing’ skills on the part of in reach teams.
And, to make matters worse, state agencies acceded a few weeks ago to a law suit put forward by the adult home operators challenging the regulatory limits of allowing no more than 25 residents per home and agreed to a temporary restraining order.
In response, the judge in the original settlement, Nicholas Garaufis, Senior United States District Judge serving on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, exploded and demanded that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman personally appear to explain why the state backed down on contesting the regulation while dragging their feet so starkly on the settlement.
In response, the Attorney General withdrew from the case on the grounds that his office was not “in a position to explain a decision that it did not make”, nor in a position to explain the state agencies’ decision to accede to the restraining order and because his office and the agencies “had a fundamental disagreement about how this matter should be handled.”
So the front door remains open and very little is happening out of the back door….and the residents continue to wait for the state to keep its commitment to them and to the court.
Look tomorrow for a news advisory for the Wednesday news conference by residents and advocates to press that thousands of residents are provided the supports that Coco received to live in the community.