2010-03-12 / Top Stories

State Appeals Judge’s Adult Home Decision

By Howard Schwach

The Surfside Adult Home for Adults on Beach 95 Street is one of the Rockaway adult homes impacted by the judge’s decision. The Surfside Adult Home for Adults on Beach 95 Street is one of the Rockaway adult homes impacted by the judge’s decision. Attorneys for New York State have filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, of the March 1 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordering that the state begin developing supportive housing for adult-home residents. This may mean that many of the 1,700 mentally ill residents of those homes in Rockaway will have to be moved to supported housing units in the community.

Garaufis ruled in September that the roughly 4,300 adult-home residents in New York City were not being cared for in the most integrated setting, a violation of federal law.

Garaufis’ ruling on March 1 gave the state four years to provide housing in community settings for residents of adult homes in New York City. He ordered that the state develop at least 1,500 beds a year for the first three years, and after that, 1,500 beds a year until there are enough for all residents who want to move into community housing.

The remedy in the case is expected to have implications for the roughly 12,000 residents of 380 adult homes across the state, and possibly outside New York.

While many locals termed the judge’s decision problematic for the communities involved, advocates for the mentally ill hailed it as a great victory.

Glenn Lieberman, the executive director of the Mental Health Associa- tion of New York State, said recently in a prepared statement, “As advocates for the mental health community, the judge’s ruling on the adult home lawsuit is the best opportunity we have had to transform and reform a forty year old system that has not met the needs of people with psychiatric disabilities. The state appealed the judge’s decision less then 72 hours after he rejected the state’s remedial plan.

“The bottom line is that we have to continue to advocate for the changes necessary to reform adult homes. Until the appeal is heard, we will advocate strongly for the things that make a difference for residents currently in the homes---resources such as funding for recovery programs and ADL skill building that will help residents leave the home, independent case managers whose role is to work with residents to help them leave the homes, insure resident council sign off for all funding that goes to home, utilize existing assessments to identify people who want to leave the homes and finally have a team go into every adult home with individuals with psychiatric disabilities and have them provide an overview of independent housing. While the appeal is going on, there must continue to be activity by the state that reflects the core belief that people with psychiatric disabilities in adult homes should live as independently as possible.”

Lieberman said that he is angered by the way the daily newspapers responded to the decision

“Last week, I had the honor of participating in the Adult Home Speak out day run by our colleagues at the Coalition of Institutionalized and Aged Disabled (CIAD). It is one of the highlights of the year as you witness the courage and determination of adult home residents as they advocate for themselves,” he said. “Not only are they incredible advocates but they are also among the most decent and compassionate people I have ever met. That is why we are so angry about how the newspapers have portrayed many of these individuals. If they took the time to meet with residents instead of fostering awful stereotypes, they would have a completely different perspective.”

Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director for the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, agrees.

She says that advocates for the mentally ill have long believed that the federal lawsuit represented the state’s failure to comply with the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which suggested that states demonstrate compliance with the ADA by producing formal plans for increasing community integration.

“Many people have been under the misimpression that the Olmstead decision doesn’t require states to do very much,” Mathis, said. “The DAI decision and the court’s remedy order make it clear that that is incorrect,” she stated.

“This is an extremely important ruling,” said Mathis “It reaffirms the importance of integration as a civil right and lays out the types of measures that states may need to take in order to comply with Olmstead.” Many states have wrongly looked at Olmstead compliance as a costly measure, she said. “To the contrary; complying with Olmstead typically saves states money. It’s about people’s civil rights.”

“New York has some of the leading supported housing providers in the country, Mathis added. “They know how to serve a wide range of people with mental illness — including people with very challenging needs — effectively in supported housing. New York must now expand that supported housing capacity so that people with mental illness can have a meaningful choice and can live in supported housing rather than being stuck in adult homes.”

Many locals, however, do not see the judge’s decision as a victory for the Rockaway community.

Jeffrey Edelman, president of the New York Coalition for Quality Assisted Living, which represents the majority of the group homes, called the order “irresponsible” and “deeply disturbing.”

Edelman told New York Times reporter A. G. Sulzburger, “The judge’s decision, entirely following the advocate’s agenda, could force thousands of mentally ill from their stable lives into independent living situations for which the majority are neither psychologically or physically prepared.”

“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.”

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, voiced the frustration over the ruling shared by many Rockaway residents.

“Often, people who make decisions like this don’t have the facilities in their neighborhoods and don’t have to live with the consequences,” Gaska said, adding that Rockaway houses 60 percent of all the adult home beds in Queens.

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.

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