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A federal court in New York recently ruled that the state discriminated against people with mental illnesses by housing approximately 4,300 New York City residents in "adult homes." The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York found that the adult homes were segregated settings that did not meet the Americans With Disabilities Act's requirement that people with mental illness be housed in the least restrictive setting available.
The decision in Disability Advocates v. Paterson came roughly six years after Disability Advocates filed suit on behalf of New York City residents with mental illness, alleging that their rights were being violated by placement in adult homes. Since the late 1970s, the privately run adult homes replaced New York state psychiatric hospitals that were closed as part of the country's movement towards community-based treatment. As part of this trend towards community care, the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law, mandated that the states must house people with disabilities in the least restrictive setting possible. However, the lawsuit claimed and the federal court ruled that the adult homes were segregated, institutional settings that did not allow residents access to the community and that by housing people in the adult homes, the state was violating their civil rights.
As a New York Times article discussing the case explained, the 210-page decision severely criticized the state's community treatment practices, finding that "[t]o the extent that mental health programs or case management aim to teach independent living skills, like cooking, budgeting and grocery shopping, residents have little or no opportunity to practice these skills in their present living situation. The court gave the state until October to submit a remedial plan that could transfer many of New York City's non-dangerous adult home residents into smaller facilities or their own apartments.
To read about the case in the New York Times, click here.