2010-07-16 / Editorial/Opinion

Obey The Law On Mentally Ill, But Ensure That Process Is Rational

It is clear now that the courts will prevail over the state and that New York will soon have to begin setting up 1,500 units of supported housing for mentally ill residents who now live in large adult homes throughout the five boroughs. Advocates have been pushing for such a move for more than a decade, and, thanks largely to Judge Nicholas Garaufis, they have won. We hope, however, that their win does not become Rockaway’s loss. The fact of the matter is that a large chunk of those mentally ill residents, 1,700 at last count, live in adult homes in Rockaway, from the Nassau County line to Belle Harbor. Garaufis said that isolating the mentally ill in the large adult homes made it impossible for them to have contact with the wider community or to learn the social skills that would allow them to live independently, in violation of federal law. We wonder just how many of the 1,700 Rockaway residents who fall into that category will be able to live independently under any circumstances. One person who works with the adult home residents told us earlier in the year that 95 percent of them are not capable of living independently. The advocates say that the number is much lower. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but that still means that upwards of 1,000 or so mentally ill patients could theoretically be moved into homes and apartments scattered around Rockaway. The process under the judge’s ruling is that only those who want to move and are physically and mentally capable of living independently will be moved. We hope that is true, and that those who do the screening will be rational about the process and will not move borderline cases out into the community at large. That will tend to destabilize already shaky communities. Obey the law, but ensure that only those who can truly live independently will be moved.

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