A class action lawsuit has been filed in Buffalo against Governor Cuomo and the acting commissioner of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. The litigation seeks to end what is considered a "moratorium" on more residential housing for thousands of adults.
Named in the lawsuit, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, is Kerry Delaney, the acting commissioner of the state's Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The lawsuit contends that by failing to plan for sufficient and appropriate housing, the Cuomo administration is not fulfilling its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
Bruce Goldstein, with the law firm Kenney, Shelton, Liptak, Nowak LLP filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Western District of New York. He says an estimated 11,000 adults with developmental disabilities, including an estimated 2,000 individuals in Western New York, have been waiting for years to get into an appropriate residential setting such as a group home.
"They're living at home with their parents, and unfortunately that becomes a problem because their parents are aging," Goldstein said. "The way that it's dealt with is not in a planning way. They (New York State) wait until there's a crisis."
The lawsuit contends that more than 60 percent of eligible individuals awaiting placement by OPWDD have caregivers who are experiencing their own health issues. Nearly half of those awaiting placement have caregivers over the age of 60.
Goldstein told WBFO that the class action suit seeks to end what many consider an eight-year moratorium on placement of eligible individuals into appropriate housing. He says the money is there to expand residential opportunities for the thousands still waiting.
"There's Medicaid funding for this, so a large share of the cost is from the federal government," Goldstein said. "Number two, the monies that were saved by the state in closing the institutions haven't been put to housing people in the community. The money was taken but diverted elsewhere."
How much would it cost to place these thousands of people? That, Goldstein suggested, is hard to calculate because the state government won't easily disclose that information.
"If we have to litigate, then we will get to the bottom of that," he said. "At this point, the state is very opaque. It doesn't share a lot of information. It doesn't share a lot of cost factors, or numbers of people. In fact, the state claims there's no 'waiting list,' that it's just a registry. But we've got thousands. We know that just from the state numbers."