Mentally Ill to Stay in State-run Facilities, Court Rules

April 8, 2012 Updated: July 13, 2012

NEW YORK—New York state is no longer required to move thousands of mentally ill adults currently living in state-run group homes into private dwellings, after the United States Court of Appeals overturned a district court ruling on Friday.

In 2003, Disability Advocates Inc., filed a complaint against Gov. George Pataki’s office and state health agencies, stating that the treatment of mentally ill patients in large state-run facilities was in violation of the Rehabilitation Act.

The original complaint reads, “People with mental illness are often left to languish in these adult homes while equally affordable and more humane residential settings exist and/or could be made available.” It says that the state-run homes segregate mentally ill individuals from people without mental illness, and are not recovery-oriented.

Patients are “forced to live in filthy, squalid conditions,” says the complaint.

The district court ruled in favor of Disability Advocates Inc. in 2009. The district court ruled that within four years, the state must offer supported housing instead of placement in a group home to any individual that is qualified and that desires it.

That ruling was overturned on Friday when the Court of Appeals ruled that the district court wrongly accepted the organization Disability Advocates as a plaintiff. Disability Advocates does not “possess the ‘indicia of membership’ necessary for a nonmembership organization to exercise associational standing.”

“In this case, the district court decided important questions of fact and law based entirely on the presentation of a plaintiff who lacked standing,” reads the ruling. The appeals court recognizes that a remedy to the problem of caring for the mentally ill will be delayed by this ruling, and it expresses concern about the scope of the remedy.