Published: July 24, 2013

Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed out a shameful period in New York’s history earlier this week when he agreed to give about 4,000 mentally ill people held in highly restrictive institutional settings the option of moving into supported housing, where they can live independently with the help of social service organizations. The agreement, outlined in a consent decree filed in federal court in New York City, ends a long legal battle and could bring a new day for people isolated in inadequate, for-profit residences that make their disabilities that much harder to bear.
In the last decade, state-sponsored panels have found serious shortcomings in the way mentally ill citizens are treated. One investigation found pervasive patterns of neglect in privately run residences; a second panel discovered that many people confined to these adult “homes” did not belong there. A series of articles by The Times’s Clifford Levy in 2002 highlighted these conditions, and, a year later, lawyers for the disabled filed a federal lawsuit charging the state with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by needlessly isolating the residents.