2009-11-13 / Front Page

State Answers Adult Home Lawsuit

By Howard Schwach

State officials filed a remedial plan for how to insure that 1,700 residents of Rockaway's adult homes have the opportunity to live in settings that are more integrated into the community, including 1,000 new community housing units over the next five years.

The remedial plan was filed in U.S. District Court on November 6 in response to a ruling by Judge Nicholas Garaufis in September. The ruling states that the residents, all with mental illness, were not getting adequate care in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, which mandate that the mentally ill live in the least restrictive environment possible.

Under the plan, the state would fund 200 new units of supported housing per year over the next five years. The housing, and the other elements of the plan, which include educating adult home residents about the supportive housing option, are contingent on the state legislature's funding for the plan.

If implemented, the plan would not require an adult home resident to move to supported housing if he or she does not want to move, and a resident would not be offered supported housing if he or she is not clinically appropriate for such an environment, a decision that would be made by a "qualified clinician."

A spokesperson for the governor said that the safeguards put in place should protect the community from dealing with those who cannot handle the supported housing option.

"Supported housing units funded by the Office of Mental Health are occupied by individuals with mental illness who are able to prepare meals, clean, budget and manage medication with minimal assistance," the spokesperson said.

Shortly after the judge's decision was made public, a clinician who works for the state but who declined to be identified said that upwards of 90 percent of the mentally ill residents of Rockaway adult homes would not be eligible for supported housing because they cannot adequately care for themselves.

He sees that as one safeguard that would keep large numbers of mentally ill men and women from being distributed throughout the peninsula.

The safeguards aside, many locals remain worried that the mentally ill moved into community homes and apartments would negatively impact the peninsula - especially with such a large number of adult home residents living on the peninsula.

"Placing mentally ill people into a stable community will only serve to destabilize it," one real estate broker, who asked not to be identified, said. "There are so many vacant rental units in Rockaway, I am afraid that the state will use the peninsula as a dumping ground for as many mentally ill as they can cram in."

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer calls the plan "troubling."

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said that moving the mentally ill into the community will "have a major impact on housing on the peninsula."

The adult homes impacted by the lawsuit are the Belle Harbor Manor, New Gloria's Manor Home for Adults, New Haven Manor, Park Inn Home for Adults, Rockaway Manor Home for Adults, Surfside Home for Adults, Central Assisted Living, LLC, Long Island Hebrew Living Center, Seaview Manor and Wavecrest Home for Adults.

The plan has to be accepted by the court in order for it to be implemented. The court has set no date for rendering a decision on the state plan.

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