(CN) - New York State must move thousands of mentally ill residents out of adult homes and into their own apartments, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ordered that the state place all qualified mentally ill individuals in supported housing, if they choose, within four years.
The judge decided last year that the state "denied thousands of individuals with mental illness in New York City the opportunity to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs," adding that "these actions constitute discrimination" under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, Garaufis wrote.
The nonprofit legal group, Disability Advocates, filed the action "on behalf of individuals with mental illness residing in, or at risk of entry into, 'impacted adult homes' in New York City."
Adult homes are for-profit, large warehouse-like facilities that house up to hundreds of residents, the 2003 lawsuit claimed.
Gov. David Paterson and the state's Departments of Health and Mental Health were among the defendants.
The judge chastised the state in his most recent opinion for its remedial proposal, saying it "scarcely begins to address the violations identified by the court."
"Worse still, many aspects of their proposal directly contradict the court's explicit findings of fact made after trial," the ruling states.
After a five-week trial, the court found that "virtually all" of the 4,300 mentally ill residents of adult homes were not in the most "integrated settings appropriate to meet their needs."
The state proposed to create only 200 supportive housing units per year over the next five years, for a total of 1,000 new units.
"The court is disappointed and, frankly, incredulous that defendants sincerely believe this proposal would suffice," Garaufis wrote. "As if failing to provide a meaningful remedy for current adult home residents were not bad enough, defendants also make absolutely no provision of supported housing for potential future adult home residents, ensuring that the violations found by this court will inevitably recur."
The judge also said he will appoint a monitor to make sure the state complies with the order.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.