The Belle Harbor Manor on Beach 125 Street is one of 12 local adult homes that will see its population decrease as mentally ill residents are moved into “supportive living” apartments in the community under governor’s plan.
The Park Inn Home for Adults has been problematic for the Beach 116 Street shopping area. Plan will move mentally ill residents into community housing.
Four years ago, after more than a decade of litigation and negotiation, New York State officials agreed that the system of often dismal and dangerous adult homes was no place for the mentally ill.
State officials agreed to move as many as 4,000 mentally ill residents out of their apartments and into supportive housing, a hard-fought recognition that people with disabilities should have the opportunity to live independently and participate in all aspects of community life.
But as a July deadline nears, a federal judge has found that the state seems far from meeting its commitment: Fewer than 500 people have actually been moved into supportive housing from adult homes.
Many of those adult homes that dot the Rockaway peninsula and those local facilities would be forced to lower the number of its residents with “serious psychiatric disabilities” to 25 percent of its population.
In addition, hospitals with psychiatric units, such as St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Rockaway, would no longer be able to discharge patients to “transitional adult homes” such as the ones in Rockaway unless that home’s population of residents with serious psychiatric disabilities was under the 25 percent mandate.
A local resident intricately involved with the adult home industry in Rockaway, but who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said at the time that the new rules would mean a massive change for a number of Rockaway facilities because “75 to 80 percent of those in Rockaway homes fall into the category of “severely impaired.”
The new rules define a “transitional adult home” as one with more than 80 beds in which 25 percent of the residents have a psychiatric disability.”
There are 12 adult homes in Rockaway that fit that description, sources say.
Those homes were part of a lawsuit brought in 2008 by an advocacy group that argued “warehousing” the mentally ill in large adult homes violated their rights under the Constitution.
Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis agreed and ordered that residents of those 12 homes be moved into “assisted living” apartments and homes within the community.
Garaufis’ decision was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals two years ago, however,
“What the governor is doing is honoring Garaufis’ ruling even though it was overturned by the Second Circuit,” the source said. “It will move into the community people who are not ready to live independently or to care for themselves.”
Mental Health advocates, however, said in a prepared statement, “These actions represent a major commitment to advancing the rights, choices and hopes of potentially thousands of adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities from across the state – not just in New York City – to live a full life in the community.”
The adult homes on the Rockaway peninsula that could be impacted by the new state regulations are the Belle Harbor Manor, New Gloria’s Manor Home for Adults, New Haven Manor, Park Inn Home for Adults, Rockaway Manor Home for Adults, Surfside Home for Adults, Central Assisted Living, LLC, Long Island Hebrew Living Center, Seaview Manor and Wavecrest Home for Adults
According to a recent New York Times article, judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York, found most troubling was the fact that the state appeared to be working with the adult home industry to undermine the settlement.
“I will not allow the kind of political, legal activity that is going on in this case behind my back and behind the backs of the plaintiffs to continue,” Judge Garaufis said at a recent hearing. “If I sound dramatic, it is because it is dramatic. It’s about them. It’s about 4,000 people.”
According to the Times, the Department of Health had quietly reached an agreement with home operators in state court that would have short-circuited the execution of the federal settlement — without ever informing the federal court.
“There’s some sort of a deal,” the judge said. “That’s how it appears. And we’re going to find out exactly what the deal is, because if there is a deal, I would consider it a fraud on the court.”
Adding to the chaos, the state attorney general’s office — the legal representative of the state — said it was unaware of the negotiations between the state and lawyers for the adult home industry “until it was well underway,” and asked last month to withdraw from the federal case, citing irreconcilable differences with its client, the state.
The highly unusual request was denied by Judge Garaufis, whose involvement in the case traces back to its beginnings.
The sprawling network of privately run and state-regulated adult homes in New York City — once considered a promising alternative to the bleak psychiatric wards that the state began closing in the 1960s — began to face increased scrutiny for a host of abuses. A 2002 investigation by The New York Times showed that many had “devolved into places of misery and neglect, just like the psychiatric institutions before them.”
Lawsuits were filed, and after years of court battles, the state reached a settlement that called for residents with mental illness to be moved out of the homes and into supportive housing and be given rental assistance and access to community-based services that promote their inclusion, independence and full participation in community life. The state was given five years to resettle 2,000 to 4,000 residents.
Last month, with the July deadline approaching, Judge Garaufis called all the parties into court for a hearing where, in blunt and caustic language, he warned that the state was “far from hitting its numbers.”
The state rejected the suggestion that it had done anything wrong.
“New York remains unequivocally committed to supporting adult home residents, which is why we are working tirelessly to meet the requirements of the settlement agreement,” the Department of Health wrote in a statement in response to a question.
Even before the hearing, however, advocates for the mentally ill said that the process for resettling residents was deeply flawed.
“The state’s system to help people move out of adult homes is not working,” Cliff Zucker, the general counsel for Disability Rights New York told the Times. “Transition to community living has moved at a snail’s pace, leaving residents confused and frustrated. This is largely because the state has insisted on an inordinately complex process.”
The state officials, however, said that the complex process was necessary in part to ensure that people who moved out of the homes were ready to live more independent lives without endangering themselves or others.