The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York signed off March 18 on a comprehensive settlement, announced in July 2013, that will move more than 4,000 people from institutional to more integrated settings.
“Judge (Nicholas) Garaufis’ approval of this settlement agreement means New York City’s adult home residents can finally take their lives back,” said Veronica S. Jung, senior staff attorney at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, in a news release. “This victory has been a decade in the making. The real test of our victory is in the state’s implementation of the agreement, to quickly assess and move adult home residents into housing in the community.
“These residents are ordinary people who look forward to returning to jobs, families, and living independently in the community.”
The settlement stems from more than a decade of litigation. In 2003, a coalition of disability advocacy groups sued the state, accusing it of a rash of Americans with Disabilities Act violations. In 2009, Judge Garaufis ruled in favor of plaintiffs, only for the case to be dismissed on procedural grounds in 2012 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The settlement creates a five-year plan for the state to reevaluate all the state’s residents in its network of 23 adult homes, in order to determine which residents are capable of living in less segregated settings. The state has agreed to build at least 2,000 new supported housing units, and more if necessary, for residents moving out of the adult homes.
The state must also provide home health care, employment assistance and other services to help these individuals reintegrate into their communities.
In approving the settlement, Judge Garaufis expressed his frustration with the long build up to the settlement.
“While the court applauds the settlement reached by the parties, it notes that it has required decades of investigations, litigation and settlement negotiations to compel the State to provide adult home residents what is due under the law,” Judge Garaufis wrote, according to the New York Law Journal. “Relief for these residents is long overdue, and the court considers this delay to be unconscionable.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Disability Rights New York, the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Urban Justice Center, MFY Legal Services and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP.
Disability Rights New York and Disability Rights Washington, which operates this Galaxy Website, are both part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.