New York - Judge Ordered State to Move All Mentally Ill Out of Group Homes
New York - New York State must immediately begin moving thousands of people with mental illness into their own apartments or small homes and out of large, institutional group homes that keep them segregated from society, a federal judge ordered on Monday.
The decision by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn followed his ruling in September that the conditions at more than two-dozen privately run group homes in New York City violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by leaving the approximately 4,300 mentally-ill residents isolated from the outside world in warehouse-like conditions.
The remedial plan offered by Judge Garaufis, which drew from a proposal presented by advocates for the mentally ill and was backed by the Justice Department, calls on New York to develop at least 1,500 units of so-called supportive housing a year for the next three years. In supportive housing, a resident lives alone or in small groups and receives specialized services from counselors who visit as needed.
The judge said that only people with the most severe mental illness, including those deemed a danger to themselves or others, should be housed in group homes. He also said that residents who were eligible for supportive housing may choose to stay in group homes as long as they have been apprised of their options.
The order begins a process aimed at transforming a system that first took shape in the 1960s. The government embraced group homes as a way to care for people with mental illness following the rapid closure of large state-run hospitals, a process known as deinstitutionalization, but that became defined by continued lax state regulation and poor private management of the group homes.
A series of articles in The New York Times in 2002 described a system in which residents were poorly monitored and barely cared for, with residents left to swelter in the summer and sometimes subjected to needless medical treatment and surgeries for Medicaid reimbursement.
The state argued that conditions had improved markedly at group homes in recent years, but the judge ruled last year that their very setup discriminated against residents by keeping them separated from society and providing little encouragement to find work, make friends or learn skills like cooking, shopping or budgeting.
The order by Judge Garaufis offered a stinging rebuke of the much less sweeping proposed remedy offered by the state, which continued to dispute many of the findings of his previous rulings and which sought to cap the number of new supportive housing units at 1,000, to be made available on a more restrictive basis over five years. “The court is disappointed and, frankly, incredulous that defendants sincerely believed this proposal would suffice,” the judge wrote in his ruling Monday.
The state had argued that, particularly in current economic conditions, such a mandate would be too expensive. But the judge wrote last year that evidence showed that supported housing would cost only $40,253 a year per resident, about $7,500 less than it costs to place them in a group home.
On Monday, the judge ordered the appointment of a federal monitor to ensure the state followed his plan and said that both sides must suggest candidates by the end of the week.
“Defendants’ demonstrated resistance to the remedy, as evidenced by their refusal to abide by the court’s findings in crafting their patently inadequate proposal, further highlights the need for a Monitor in this case,” he wrote.
More of today's headlines“Washington Heights, NY - A 6-foot-6 career mugger who bludgeoned an 81-year-old Orthodox Jew to death while robbing him in his Washington Heights elevator was slammed...” Washington Heights, NY - Mugger Gets 25 Years for Elevator Slay of Elderly Jew “Ottawa, Canada - An Air Canada spokeswoman said an airplane was taken out of service and 205 passengers left the aircraft at the gate after a rat was found on...” Ottawa, Canada - 205 Passengers Evacuated from Plane after Giant Rat Found in Overhead Lockers