Adult homes (also known as Board & Care) are congregate residential facilities originally created to provide housing, meals and basic care for the elderly who do not need a nursing facility. Today, adult homes house a large percentage of mentally ill people—in some cases, as high as 90%.
Using a lawyer/organizer model, MFY began working collaboratively with the Coalition of Institutionalized Aged & Disabled in 1992 to reach out to and assist adult home residents. Since then, we regularly met with residents of adult homes in New York City, providing training on their rights and representing residents in individual matters and in affirmative litigation.
MFY’s advocacy and litigation helped bring widespread public attention to the plight of adult home residents and the lack of viable community-based housing and supports for clients exiting the state’s psychiatric hospitals. In 2002-03, MFY worked closely with a New York Times reporter to bring public attention to suspicious deaths and inhumane conditions in adult homes. The resulting series in April 2002, Broken Homes, earned the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for author Clifford J. Levy in 2003, and fueled an avalanche of demands for state action to end the abuses and reform practices in and oversight of the homes. In accepting the Pulitzer, Levy credited MFY: “If not for MFY’s work, I never would have learned of the adult home system and the series in The New York Times, which continues to have repercussions, would never have come about.”
Among the adult home clients we have represented is a group of 17 men from the former Leben Adult Home in Queens who were subjected to unnecessary prostate surgery. In Bowen et al v. Rubin et al, we joined with other advocates to win a multi-million dollar settlement for the victims.
In 2009, MFY, along with other advocates, won a groundbreaking decision in Disability Advocates v. Paterson, in which the court ruled that New York State violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by segregating adults with psychiatric disabilities in large adult homes. New York State appealed the order and we await a decision from the Second Circuit.
The Adult Home Advocacy Project is supported by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, the New York State Commission on Quality of Care, the van Ameringen Foundation, and The Ambrose Monell Foundation.
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