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Landmark settlement for New York City adult home residents

July 25, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Lawyers for adult home residents, together with the U.S. Department of Justice, reached a landmark settlement with New York State. The settlement ensures that thousands of residents of 23 large "adult homes"— board and care homes serving primarily people with mental illnesses – will have the opportunity to live in their own homes with the services they need to succeed and be participants in their communities.

"With this agreement, Governor Cuomo and his administration have shown a real commitment to the civil rights and dignity of adult home residents. Thousands of people with mental illness who are now stuck in institutions will have the opportunity to live full lives in the community, with the services and supports they want and need to succeed," stated Cliff Zucker, general counsel of Disability Rights New York (formerly Disability Advocates Inc.).

"This proposed agreement marks a big win for NYC's adult home residents," stated Veronica Jung, senior staff attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. "Our goal all along was to ensure that these residents have access to independent housing and services in the community, and now the state has promised full funding to make this a reality. The real test of our victory will be in the implementation of the agreement, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring fulfilling, independent lives for adult home residents."

The plaintiffs' legal team sought to resolve claims that New York State is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision by failing to afford adult home residents an opportunity to live in the "most integrated setting" appropriate to their needs. The U.S. Department of Justice sought to resolve similar claims. After extensive negotiations, the residents, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state reached this landmark agreement which will end the unnecessary segregation of thousands of people with mental illnesses.

Under the agreement, the state will provide as many scattered-site, supported housing units as necessary to afford all adult home residents with serious mental illnesses the opportunity to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, and will provide and maintain community services and supports including but not limited to:

  • Care coordination
  • Psychiatric rehabilitation services
  • Employment services
  • Assistance with taking medication
  • Home health care
  • Personal assistance services
  • Assertive community treatment
  • Crisis services 

The parties chose Clarence J. Sundram to serve as the independent reviewer to assess the state's compliance with the settlement. Sundram has a long history of working on behalf of people with disabilities. The U.S. District Court must approve the settlement. The parties have asked the Court to schedule a hearing on the fairness of the settlement.   

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