NY Adult Housing Ruling Has National Implications : Shots - Health News Housing for those with mental illnesses still leaves much to be desired, according to a recent ruling.
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NY Adult Housing Ruling Has National Implications

Since the 1970s, states have been closing down the large institutions that have historically housed people with mental illness. The "deinstitutionalization" movement came after those large state facilities were exposed as chaotic places where residents faced frequent abuse and poor care.

Large institutions like this one closed, but the alternatives are being questioned, too. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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iStockphoto.com

Large institutions like this one closed, but the alternatives are being questioned, too.

iStockphoto.com

Now a judge in New York has ruled that what that state often offers instead--large group homes that sometimes house 120 to 200 people--also fails the people who live there. The decision applies specifically to adult homes in New York City, but it could influence courts in Illinois, Connecticut and other states that are facing similar cases.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, ruled that the city's adult homes failed, just like the large institutions they replaced.

He said the state must instead provide services to people with disabilities "in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs." He said people have a right to be placed in their own apartments, with support from social service agencies, per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This idea that people with disabilities have a right to live in their community, rather than in an institution, was written in the ADA and upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1999 Olmstead decision.

Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, says the New York ruling is important because it specifically applies to privately run adult homes. "One of the big arguments the state made in this case, and states have made in other cases, is that this has nothing to do with us," says Mathis, "These are private facilities."

But the New York court said when a state makes policies--including whether to contract with private companies--it determines the housing choices of someone with mental illness.