The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned a ruling this week that would have given more than 4,000 New York City adult-home residents with severe mental illness the opportunity to move into the community in supported-housing units. Adult homes were created for frail elderly people, but many people with psychiatric disabilities were discharged to the homes as the state’s mental hospitals were downsized.
The decision was vacated on a technical ground, according to Disability Advocates Inc., which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the adult-home residents in 2003. The Court of Appeals ruled that Disability Advocates did not have “standing” to bring the lawsuit.
A judge ruled more than two years ago that the residents were not receiving care in the most integrated setting possible, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal law. A Court of Appeals judge placed a hold on the order a year ago.
The Court of Appeals said its decision likely is not the judiciary’s last word on the case, which could be sent back to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Disability Advocates said in a statement. The appellate court did not question Garaufis’ conclusion that New York is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by housing people with psychiatric disabilities in adult homes, said Cliff Zucker, executive director of Disability Advocates.
“We hope New York State will negotiate a remedy to end the unnecessary institutionalization of adult home residents. We will work with New York to solve this problem, hopefully without the need for future litigation,” Zucker said.
New York Mental Health Commissioner Michael Hogan told lawmakers in February that state officials were waiting for the appellate court decision but were “considering a conversation with the plaintiffs about a settlement in that case that might be a win-win.”
Margueritte Wilkens, who lives in the Bronxwood Home for the Aged, said she was disappointed by the decision. She went to Bronxwood two years ago after spending time in a nursing home because of health problems. She is 64.
“I had high hopes of returning to a normal life in the community,” she said in a statement.
Roughly 28,000 individuals statewide live in more than 450 adult homes.