CIAD & Community-Based Housing for Adult Home Residents in New York City: The Struggle Goes On

by | May 17, 2012

Sixteen million dollars are sitting in Albany, waiting to be converted into fifteen hundred apartments for adult home residents presumed to have serious mental illnesses. The task for CIAD – the Coalition of the Aged and Institutionalized Disabled – and its allies is to exert sufficient public pressure on State legislators and Governor Cuomo to spend that money for that purpose.

In the blog I posted on this site back on April 17 – “The Mouse That Roared: CIAD & Friends vs. the State of New York” — I detailed CIAD’s years-long struggle to get to this point. Only a year earlier, in February, 2011, the Federal District Court in New York City had issued a ruling ordering the State to provide community-based housing for any of the approximately 4500 residents of City adult homes labeled with a serious mental illness who wished to move out of the homes and into their own apartments. The Federal judge gave the State three years to accomplish this. Naturally, the State, joined by the adult home’s trade association, appealed the ruling; and, in early April of this year, less than two weeks before my post, the Federal Court of Appeals in New York City vacated the District Court order, ruling that Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI), which had brought the lawsuit on behalf of CIAD and its members, did not have the standing to do so.

Interestingly, the Appeals judge did not rule against the plaintiffs on the merits or basis of their case, which rested on the contention that New York’s adult homes violated the “least restrictive environment” provision of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). In short, he left the door open for another lawsuit. The biggest barrier against renewing litigation, whether by DAI or the U.S. Department of Justice, is time: it took nine years just to reach this new impasse. Negotiating an agreement with the State, which Cuomo and key legislative leaders appear open to, seems to be the best course to pursue right now. After all, in anticipation that the State’s appeal might not be upheld and in keeping with the commitment made in his State of the State address in January to community-based housing, Governor Cuomo, together with key members of the Legislature — House Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblymen Richard Gottfried and Felix Ortiz and State Senators Kemp Hannon and Roy McDonald — made sure that the money to start what the Court might order was in the new fiscal year’s budget. CIAD and friends must now make sure that those folks actually spend that money.

To which end , CIAD’s Executive Director, Geoff Lieberman, has proposed an e-mail/letter-writing campaign directed at the Governor pressing him to enter into an agreement with the plaintiffs in the DAI case which would authorize the expenditure of the $16 million on community housing for adult home residents. Immediately below find the appeal from Mr. Lieberman plus instructions on how and where to send e-mails and letters to Governor Cuomo. Below the instructions, you’ll find the suggested text of your communication to the Governor. Just cut and paste it to your e-mail or under your personal or organizational letterhead. Don’t forget to date and sign. If you’re interested in e-mailing any of the State legislators I mentioned above – can’t hurt – e-mail addresses for all pertinent legislators and agency directors can be found in my April 17 post archived on this site under my name.

* * * * *
From Mr. Lieberman:
Now is the time to let Governor Cuomo know that New York shouldn’t need a court order to support adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities to move into the community!
Please e-mail the Governor today at http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php

Place your name and contact information in the left column
and cut and paste your version of the text below in the right one.
Feel free to use ‘Adult Home Residents’ Right’ in the subject line
and Disability Assistance from the Topic Menu.

To mail a letter via the regular mail, send to the Governor’s special assistant on health care matters:
James Introne, Deputy Secretary for Health
Executive Chamber, State Capitol
Albany, N.Y. 12224;

Feel free to use the following message as a base or as your message.

I write to ask you to champion adult home residents’ with psychiatric diagnosis’ and their goal to live as full citizens in independent housing in our communities. As you know, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, recently overturned a federal court order in DAI v. Paterson. I am disappointed in the court’s decision, but I believe the time is at hand for these New Yorkers. They have waited too long to move out of what are de facto warehouses for many of them.

You have spoken out in your State of the State address for the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities, and you affirm the Americans with Disabilities Act and the US Supreme Court’s Olmstead Decision by pledging to deinstitutionalize the many New Yorkers trapped in segregated, restrictive settings. You have a long history of commitment to housing people with disabilities in the community. You also recognize it will cost New York State less to do so. Your bold leadership has shown you do not need a court to tell you to do the right thing.

Please ensure that the State of New York reaches a successful agreement with plaintiffs in the DAI case, and provide the funding, some of which you have already allocated for this year, so that adult home residents with mental illness in New York
City can choose to lead fuller more productive lives in the community. Thank you.

* * * * *

Seems that CIAD’s work is never done. It represents all adult home residents in New York City, not just those presumed to be seriously mentally ill. Accordingly, on May 1st – fitting day – MFY Legal Services sued Surf Manor for Adults in Brooklyn on behalf of its residents “for bedbug infestations and shoddy conditions”, to quote from the headline of the article that appeared in
the May 8 edition of the New York Daily News (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/residents).

So where was the NYS Department of Health, which is charged with overseeing the health and well-being of adult home residents throughout the State? Probably in bed with the New York Coalition for Quality Assisted Living, the adult homes trade association I referenced above. Don’t think that group won’t be lobbying against CIAD’s efforts on all fronts.

So the struggle goes on and CIAD can use your support. To keep abreast of events. log onto CIAD’s website, www.ciadny.org. While you’re there, click on the indicated link and make a donation. Feel free to contact Geoff Lieberman for updates …. [email protected] Above all, don’t mourn, organize!

My next blog, which I’ll post shortly, is a follow-up on the DSM5 struggle, which I’ve been writing about for several months. See you then!

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