NYT on New York Nursing Home Deinstitutionalization Suit
New York State regularly sends patients from mental hospitals to nursing homes, where it illegally houses hundreds of them without the care they need and often under conditions that approach imprisonment, according to legal groups designated by the state to represent the disabled.
Those groups said they would file a lawsuit today in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, accusing New York State of violating several federal laws and claiming that many of the mentally ill patients who have been moved from state psychiatric hospitals into the nursing homes should instead be back in their own neighborhoods, living independently but with government help.
The groups say that they have talked with the Pataki administration for years, seeking to end the practice, but that the problem has worsened. They say more than 1,000 former psychiatric patients could now be in nursing homes in New York and New Jersey. They charge that 500 to 600 are in two New Jersey homes alone, nearly twice as many as in 2002 when the practice first came to light.
The groups charge that the nursing homes do little more than medicate the mentally ill residents and do not adequately provide the services that the state is legally required to offer — treatment by psychiatrists and social workers, and training in everyday skills like shopping and cooking. The mentally ill residents, who have not been declared a threat to themselves or others, are generally not allowed to leave the nursing homes and in many cases are even restricted to their floors most of the day, the groups say.
"The state is warehousing people in nursing homes who don't need nursing home care, and not providing the services that they do need," said Cliff Zucker, executive director of Disability Advocates Inc., one of the groups filing the suit. Those who are sent out of state, he said, are isolated from family and other sources of support.