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 people with mental illness—in some cases, as high as 90%.
Using a lawyer/organizer model, Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services) 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.
Our 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, we 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 our work: “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.
For over a decade, we have worked to end the unnecessary segregation of people with psychiatric disabilities in large adult homes. In 2013, we successfully negotiated a settlement with New York State. This settlement ensures that thousands of adult home residents will have the opportunity to live in their own apartments with the services they need to succeed and be part of their communities.
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, and the van Ameringen Foundation.
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