NYAPRS Note: A wonderful counter to Pro Publica’s/New York Times’ recent piece suggesting that supported community housing is a failed policy for some people with major mental health conditions from a longtime champion for people with disabilities who introduced the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act former Senator Tom Harkin
Helping the Mentally Ill Stay in the Community
Former Senator Tom Harkin describes a humane and moral imperative
New York Times December 13, 2018
To the Editor:
“Helping the Mentally Ill Live on Their Own, but at a Grim Cost” (front page, Dec. 6) highlights critical concerns about the services that New York provides to people with serious mental illnesses. But it misses the mark in suggesting that transitioning people with psychiatric disabilities from institutional adult homes to supported housing is a failed policy.
The state has a responsibility to ensure that people with disabilities who move from institutions to supported housing get the support they need to succeed in the community. That has not happened in all cases, and that failure must be addressed. Doing so is required as a matter of good conscience and human dignity, and also by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
A core tenet of that law is affording people with disabilities the opportunity to live in their own homes and communities with the supports they need to do so. Decades of evidence show that even people with the most significant disabilities can thrive in the community when properly supported.
Typically, community services cost taxpayers less than institutional care. Keeping people with mental disabilities in institutions longer is not the answer. We know how to support people in the community, and we should hold states accountable for failing to provide that support.
The writer, a Democrat, served as a United States senator from 1985 to 2015, and was a lead sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act.