2009-11-20 / Top Stories

Advocates For Mentally Ill Say No To State Plan

By Howard Schwach

"Woefully inadequate."

That's what advocates for the mentally ill are saying about a state plan that would create only 1,000 new units of supported housing for the mentally ill over the next five years, moving residents out of the large adult homes in which they now live.

In September, Federal Judge Nicho - las Garaufis shook up the adult home industry by ruling that the state improperly placed more than 4,000 people with mental illness into adult homes that failed to allow them to integrate into the community.

Experts say that 1,700 of those people live in ten adult homes on the Rockaway peninsula.

The state's response to his ruling was filed November 6. It offers provisions for placing up to 1,000 of those residents citywide into supported living apartments and homes scattered throughout the city's communities.

Advocates, however, say that the plan does not fully comply with the judge's ruling.

"I don't know how they expected this to be acceptable to the court," Cliff Zucker, executive director of Disability Advocates, the group that filed the original lawsuit, told Daily News reporter Brendan Brosh. "It's like the trial didn't happen and the decision wasn't written. They are ignoring the fact that people have been institutionalized for a long time."

Garaufis' original ruling said that the state had violated the law steering the mentally ill residents into the adult homes rather than into apartments that would create the "least restrictive environment."

The state plan would allow the mentally ill to remain in the adult homes should they want to, and would move into a supported housing environment only those willing to do so and able to care for themselves on a day-to-day basis.

Advocates worry, however, about who would make the decision on whether or not a person is able to take care of him or herself and whether or not the state will use its muscle to keep people in the less expensive adult homes.

"The state must do more to move the mentally ill into the mainstream," one local advocate, who asked not to be identified, said. "The adult homes in Rockaway have become worse than the mental institutions that were closed by the state decades ago. They give their residents no chance to really integrate into the community, as the law mandates."

Disability advocates have until November 24 to submit their response to the state plan. The state then has the option of appealing the ruling.

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