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Adult homes will chop 75% of mentally ill

Bronx Times

Adult homes across the Bronx are bracing for an exodus of residents, many of them suffering from schizophrenia and depression.

Thanks to a new Albany rule, at least 75% of those living in adult homes will be farmed out by December, and into supportive housing units where is often scant, charged advocates.

Some of estimated 700 persons affected could wind up homeless or living among the general public, they say.

The change, enforced by the state Office of Mental Health, could also force closure of several state-funded adult homes.

The borough currently has five adult homes: Bronxwood, Amber Court of Pelham Gardens, New Fordham Arms Assisted Living, Parkview Home for Adults, and the Riverdale Manor Home for Adults, which houses the most mentally ill tenants within the borough.

The changes would greatly effect Bob Williamson, whose manic-depressive brother Ralph lives at Riverdale Manor.

A military vet, Ralph has called Riverdale Manor home for the past 15 years, coping along thanks to familiar faces and a built-in routine.

But the new rule has brought a mountain of concern for Williamson, afraid the lack of round-the-clock service would endanger his brother and the community.

“The state is making a major mistake,” said Williamson. “Why would you want to make the unstable more unstable?”

The new rule stems from the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The federal government sees adult homes as institutional settings that restrict the disabled, including those with mental illness.

State officials, according to the federal government, have to create a plan to move those from adult homes into supported apartments and other “community living alternatives”.

Years ago, Disability Advocates Inc. filed suit in Brooklyn federal court making similar claims.

A judge ruled in DAI’s favor, sending the case to the federal appeals court where it was overturned.

But the Office of Mental Health, staying on top of the federal change, agrees the rule is not mandatory but rather a choice for the families of those who house their mentally ill relatives into adult homes.

“[NYSOMH] encourages all individuals to live fully in their communities, in environments that foster individual autonomy and social and community integration,” said spokesman Benjamin Rosen.

State Senator Jeff Klein, who chaired the Assembly’s Oversight Analysis and Investigation Committee in 2002 when it reviewed adult home conditions, disagrees with the federal ruling.

“It’s really going to force a lot of individuals who personally utilize adult homes to become homeless,” Klein argued. “It’s the only home they know.”

Klein also finds supportive housing units lacking in the Bronx.

“So they’re going to fall through the cracks.”

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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