Housing suit resolved in NY State

In a victory for adults with mental health disabilities, hundreds of such people will be relocated from nursing homes in New York state to supported housing in the community.

The case began in 2006 when a two residents in a NY nursing home – Joseph S. and Stephen W. –  sued, claiming the state was violating the ADA and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision by restricting their ability to move out of the institutions.

It’s a pretty simple, yet profound, request.  One of the best representations of that desire is displayed in this short documentary, Coco’s Story. The video was produced by a New York based group, with the tongue-in-cheek name: Coalition of the Institutionalized, Aged and Disabled. I usually don’t recommend videos online, but this is worth the nine minutes it takes to watch.

Plaintiffs were represented by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the protection and advocacy organization for New York City. NYLPI’s Disability Law Center serves the same role in NYC as Disability Rights North Carolina does in NC.

As reported in the NY Times:

…the settlement sets a three-year deadline for the state to move everyone who qualifies out of nursing homes and into the community. To that end, the state has promised to develop 200 new units of supported housing: units, typically apartments, where residents live alone or in small groups and receive regular visits from social workers.

This is pretty much what advocates for people with disabilities in North Carolina have been asking the state to do for people in adult care homes.  A federal judge ruled in 2009 that NY state needed to do the same thing for adult care home residents there.

The US Department of Justice will probably be seeking something similar in North Carolina.

DoJ finds NC in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

I think we can safely say now that North Carolina does, indeed, warehouse folks with mental health problems in adult care homes – something advocates have long alleged.

The Department of Justice released their findings letter yesterday on the results of an 8 month long investigation of NC’s use of adult care homes to house people with mental health disabilities. The statement of findings bluntly states as much in the first paragraph.

“We conclude that the State fails to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs in violation of the ADA. The State plans, structures and administers its mental health service system to deliver services to thousands of persons with mental illness in large, segregated adult care homes, and to allocate funding to serve individuals in adult care homes rather than in integrated settings…”

You can read the entire document here: DoJFindingLetter

The document makes some somber reading.  Page 8 details living conditions in adult care homes.

“Residents consistently described the regimentation and control exerted over them by facility staff and policies. Some residents reported they can only leave the facility to attend medical appointments and, as a result, their days are ‘depressing’ and ‘boring.’  One resident explained that the adult care home ‘controls when you get up, when you eat, and when you go to bed.’  A resident of another facility described her life as ‘living on a closed ward’ because she is locked in at all times and does not have the freedom to walk into town.  Another resident secured a job outside the facility, but was let go with the first few days because he was unable to get there from the facility. Likewise, a resident explained that she missed the ‘freedom’ of doing things with people in her community and that is is upsetting to her when staff talk to her ‘like [she] will be there until [she] die[s].’

Phone calls out for reactions…

Secrets of Tennessee’s success

Housing facilitator Rozann Downing

Housing facilitator Rozann Downing develops housing for 20 counties in Central Tennessee

WUNC‘s daily public affairs show, The State of Things, took a look at the adult care home issue today in the B segment of the show.  I appeared on the show along with Bob Currie, the Director of Housing and Homeless Services for the Tennessee Dept of Mental Health.

We had the opportunity to expand a little more on just how Tennessee has managed to turn a little bit of money into 9800 housing options for people with mental health problems – the key is local control.  The state provides grants to mental health agencies around the state to hire housing ‘facilitators’ who help local service providers create housing they need to better serve their area.   Those housing facilitators assemble the financing needed to create housing units – the money comes from local foundations, local banks, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati grants, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, etc, etc.  They’ve always got their ears to the ground to find money and prospective properties that can be turned into housing for people with disabilities.

Take a listen here (17 mins):

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Wake County inaugurates some new supportive housing

Photo courtesy DHIC

Low-income people in Wake County got access some more housing options this week when officials dedicated a supportive housing development. Brookridge is a neighborhood of 40 studio apartments in south Raleigh. Residents make 50 percent or less of the area’s median income. Program manager Annemarie Maiorano says the development supports a population that is susceptible to becoming homeless or falling back into homelessness.

Annamarie Maiorano:
It’s really a way out of the shelter. Everybody has to pay rent. The rent ranges from $376 a month to $425 a month, and so it’s for working people, but it’s a first chance out of homelessness for a lot of people.
[on tape]

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Maiorano says that’s about half of the average rental rates in Wake County. She says Brookridge has an on-site social worker and a resident manager to help residents with services like budget management and job searches.

Our morning producer Will Michaels did the reporting on this story.

How to create better housing for people with mental health disabilities

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logo

Hix will tell you, "I am the face of mental health"

In the last 10 years, multiple studies have concluded that housing people with mental health disabilities in adult and family care homes is not the best plan for them.  Each study has recommended phasing out use of the homes and improving the system. Despite that, the number of homes has increased along with the number of adults with mental illness who live in them.

 

This final installment of North Carolina Voices – Mental Health Disorder, surveys how North Carolina can address the housing needs of people with mental health disabilities, before the federal government forces the state to craft a solution.

You can listen to the story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

Roadblocks to housing for people with mental illness in NC

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoFor people with mental health disabilities, housing’s an intensely personal issue. Many want to live independently, some want to live with others. But mostly, what folks with mental health problems say they want is some choice in the matter. But housing is a political and economic issue too. Many factors prevent people with mental health disabilities from getting the housing they want… and need.

This installment of the series examines the political forces that have kept North Carolinians with mental health disabilities from moving out on their own.

You can listen to the story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

Tennessee finds a way home for many with mental health disabilities

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoAround the country, advocates have come to realize that one of the most important services for people with mental health disabilities is housing – and that most people with disabilities are able to live independently with some help. States have tried many strategies to create suitable housing options. Tennessee dedicates a small amount of state money every year to local groups that are succeeding pretty well.

Clinton Toy in front of his house

Clinton Toy stands in front of his newly renovated house in Nashville

For this third installment of North Carolina Voices, Mental Health Disorder I traveled to Tennessee to examine that state’s housing program, and to see what that it might teach North Carolina.

Listen to today’s story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

What housing is available for people with mental health disabilities in NC?

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoThis is the second in a five part series about housing in NC’s mental health system.

Thousands of people with mental health disabilities live in large adult care homes and in smaller family care homes in North Carolina. Advocates argue that many of these facilities are too institutional to truly help their residents integrate into the community. Now the federal government is investigating the state. Justice Department attorneys contend the state’s reliance on such facilities to house people with mental illness could violate federal law and Supreme Court rulings.

In this installment, I explored some of the housing options available for people with mental health disabilities. I visited a family care home, talked to someone who had lived in an adult care home (he lives in a group home now), and talk with someone whose sister lived in adult care homes for 14 years before getting her own apartment.

One question that kept coming up as I interviewed people… what constitutes a place being an ‘institution’? It turns out that the language of the law isn’t completely clear – is an adult care home an institution or not?

For many advocates, the definition of ‘institution’ comes down to this question: Would I want to live there?

People with disabilities they say they want some choice. Some, like Joanne Howell, say she likes living in a family care home. Others, like Josh, say an adult care home wasn’t for him.

You can listen to the story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

What’s happening with housing for people with mental health disabilities in NC?

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoThis story is the first in a five-part series on housing for people with mental health disabilities in the state.

Mental health reformers and state officials have repeated their intention to move people out of large institutions toward treatment options closer to home. But even as people have left hospitals, resources in the community have not kept pace.

That means in North Carolina, many people with mental health disabilities live in adult care homes designed for frail elderly people. Now the U S Justice Department is investigating this situation.

You can listen to today’s story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

Budget back and forth

It’s no secret that the GOP-majority legislature and Governor Bev Perdue have different visions for this coming year’s budget.  Here’s how they differ when it comes to funding and services within the mental health system (this will be updated as I comb through numbers more fully).

Perdue’s budget:

  • sets aside $75 million for the Mental Health Trust Fund
  • trims $3.3 million from administrative allocations for local management entities

Of note in the governor’s budget – Dorothea Dix Hospital is effectively zeroed out.

GOP budget:

  • no $75 million for the Mental Health Trust Fund
  • cuts of as much as $43 million from mental health services

Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler says he’s trying to look at the bright side.  Originally, budget writers proposed cutting $591 million from the budget for all of health and human services.  The budget rolled out this week “only” cut $527 million.

“Our effort right now is working with the legislature as they shape those deductions to try to make certain that we minimize the damage to services and don’t have any more negative impacts than can be helped with that amount of reduction,” Cansler said.