Staff

O'Toole v. Cuomo (formerly Disability Advocates Inc. v. Cuomo)

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Date: June 30, 2003

Status: UPDATE -- July 23, 2013 -- Landmark Settlement for New York City Adult Home Residents | Read the press release...

Plaintiffs: Disability Advocates, Inc.

Defendants: George Pataki, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of New York, Antonia C. Novello, in her official capacity as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, James Stone, in his official capacity as Commission of the New York State Office of Mental Health, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Office of Mental Health

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In an enormous victory for more than 4,000 New Yorkers living in large private "adult homes," on March 1, 2010 the Eastern District Court of New York ordered the State to afford all qualified residents an opportunity to move into supported housing where they can receive mental health and social services in their own apartments and homes.  After a month-long trial in May and June of 2009, the court had ruled on September 8 that New York State violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by unnecessarily segregating people with mental illnesses in these 120-plus bed facilities, contrary to the Supreme Court's Olmstead ruling. The complaint, filed in 2003, alleged that the "homes," which house former psychiatric hospital patients, lack the staff, resources or mandate to provide integrated housing and services to promote community living.

The lawsuit sought the creation of additional "supported apartments" for adult home residents, where appropriate rehabilitation and support services could be provided to those who wish to live outside an institution. The State already licenses and provides financial support for such independent apartments, but has failed to create enough of them to meet the needs of adult home residents.

After the State proposed to develop only 1,000 alternative placements over six years in response to the 2009 order, the plaintiffs and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs assailing such a proposal as "unreasonable and inadequate to address the violations found by the Court." The Department's brief supported the plaintiffs' request that the court order the State to create 1,500 units of supported housing per year. The Justice Department had earlier notified the court of its intent to intervene in the case on the basis of its "strong interest in ensuring the proper and consistent application of its ADA regulations." Citing President Obama's stated commitment to enforcing Olmstead, the Department seeks to ensure that the remedy the judge will order both transforms the plaintiffs' lives and serves as a model for other courts nationwide.

Disability Advocates, Inc., a not-for-profit public interest law office, brought the suit on behalf of residents. Co-counsel in the case are: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc.; The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; MFY Legal Services; and the Urban Justice Center.

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