101st Assembly District
Kevin Cahill

Room 557 LOB, Albany, NY 12248 • (518) 455-4436
Governor Clinton Building, One Albany Ave., Suite G-4
Kingston, NY 12401 • (845) 338-9610

For Immediate Release
Date: September 18, 2002

Contact: Kathy Keyser
(845) 338-9610

Landmark Cahill Legislation Mandating State Compliance with Federal Disability Guidelines Becomes Law
New York must finally comply with important provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) announced today the signing into law of his legislation designed to keep persons with disabilities and seniors at home and in their communities rather than placing them in institutions. Under current Medicaid-driven policy, such individuals are not always cared for in settings that best serve their needs or desire to live independently. In discussing this historic measure, the Assemblyman said, "Our long struggle to see this measure through the process is finally over. Our work to assure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities for community living goes on."

"Until now, New York had no centralized mechanism to determine whether people of all ages with disabilities are residing in the most integrated settings," Cahill said. "Under the cost-sharing incentive created by Medicaid, little motivation existed to educate seniors and people with disabilities regarding alternatives to institutions. Essentially, we have been locking New Yorkers away against their will with the perception that it is necessary in order to receive needed long-term care services and supports."

"This is an historical step for New York State," said Ulster-Greene ARC Executive Director Laurie Kelley. "We should be proud of Assemblyman Cahill for being a champion for people with disabilities."

"The passage and signing of the Most Integrated Setting bill is a vital first step for New York towards complying with the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision," said Paul Mountain, Director for the Resource Center for Accessible Living. "Hopefully, this legislation will begin to erode the bias for placing people in institutions as the first, and quite often the only choice for services."

The new law creates a Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council to develop and implement statewide plans to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead vs. L.C. decision, which declares that the failure to serve people with disabilities in community-based settings whenever possible may be a breach of civil rights and a violation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Both disability and senior advocates statewide have hailed the measure as historically significant because it requires a much-needed, thorough inventory of the many elements and services available to care for such residents, and will formalize the important role of community-based organizations to expand outreach, education and transition services.

Additionally, the establishment of the Coordinating Council could replace costly ad hoc litigation. Cahill pointed to the case of 20-year old Long Island resident Darlene Cruz, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Cruz had no choice but to file suit against the Suffolk County Department of Social Services for release from a nursing facility located over 160 miles from her family and friends. "Darlene recently won her freedom," Cahill remarked, "But at an unnecessary, unconscionable cost to her and the government."

"We are grateful that Assemblyman Cahill worked hard to bring this issue to the forefront in 2002," said Bruce Darling, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights and a leading proponent for ADA compliance in the state. "No one should have to live in a nursing home just because they had an accident, survived a crime, have a disability or simply get older. There are better options out there."

"There are many reasons why this basic obligation should be undertaken immediately," Cahill said. "Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to work, enjoy full, rich lives and become a more active participant in local affairs. We deserve to have our family and friends among us without regard to their disability. At the same time, we can reduce spending on health care costs."

New York finally joins forty other states and the District of Columbia in developing plans consistent with the Olmstead decision.