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Federal judge rules New York violating ADA by segregating mentally ill adults

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the state of New York has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [text; materials] by segregating mentally ill New York City residents in private homes under poor conditions. Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI) [advocacy website] brought the suit in 2003 [NYT report] arguing that Judge Nicholas Garaufis should enjoin the practice of sending mentally ill people into these homes. While Garaufis stopped short of issuing the injunction, he did direct the state to come up with a remedial plan by mid-October, finding:

Following a five-week bench trial, DAI has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that its constituents, approximately 4,300 individuals with mental illness, are not receiving services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The adult homes at issue are institutions that segregate residents from the community and impede residents' interactions with people who do not have disabilities. DAI has proven that virtually all of its constituents are qualified to receive services in "supported housing," a far more integrated setting in which individuals with mental illness live in apartments scattered throughout the community and receive flexible support services as needed. DAI has also proven that its constituents are not opposed to receiving services in more integrated settings. Therefore, DAI has established a violation of the integration mandate of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

A government spokesperson said the ruling is under review [AP report], and it is unclear whether there will be an appeal.

The US is one of only 45 countries in the world with disability legislation, having adopted the ADA in 1990. Last year, Congress approved [JURIST report] the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 [HR 3195 materials], making it easier for employees with mental or physical handicaps to prove they are victims of workplace or hiring discrimination. In 2006, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted by acclamation [JURIST report] an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities [official website]. The US signed [JURIST report] that treaty in July at a ceremony marking the 19th anniversary of the ADA.

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