FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 14, 2021

(Albany, NY)  Reimagining New York’s long-term care system is essential to the health and safety of New York, but it was not addressed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week in his four-part State of the State address. This is another missed opportunity to fix an outdated system that has taken the lives of thousands and keeps many more in jeopardy, according to the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL). NYAIL remains hopeful that the Governor’s Executive Budget, due next week on Tuesday, Jan. 19, contains necessary reforms or it too will be a missed opportunity.

In his State of the State address the governor asked, "Do you remember last spring?” Advocates who have demanded changes to rebuild New York’s long-term care system since before the COVID pandemic remember it very clearly. What has been said for years about institutional settings being unable to deliver individualized, quality, and safe care became abundantly more obvious with the exponential growth of fatalities from the COVID virus, an issue that has transcended regular news stories about neglect and abuse.

“To date, 8,100 New Yorkers lost their lives to this pandemic while living in nursing facilities,” said Lindsay Miller, executive director of NYAIL. “Despite the fact that the New York State Department of Health has refused to release the data, we know that many more have died in hospitals after contracting COVID-19 in nursing facilities.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a spotlight on the dangers of living in a nursing home or other institution, NYAIL launched a multi-media grassroots campaign late in 2020 to make sure New Yorkers know there are better options available that promote independent living. The campaign – entitled “Living at home, not in a home” – aims to raise awareness among community members and state leaders about the community options available to seniors and people with disabilities in place of nursing homes and group homes. The statewide effort engages 32 NYAIL member organizations across the state.

“A great deal of attention is being paid to the rollout of a vaccine, but a vaccine does not cure the dangers of living in institutions. A commitment of resources to home and community-based care goes further in reimagining a long-term care system that will meet the needs of people and protect them now and long into the future,” said Miller. “And yet the governor did not even mention a plan to address these issues in his State of the State address.”

“Many people believe that dumping more money into nursing homes is the best way to address the problems of people dying in these facilities, but we know this is not the solution,” said NYAIL Board Chair Aileen Martin of the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living in Watertown. “Real reform and a recognition that these facilities are not safe are vital to solving these issues.”

“People should be able to live in the community with proper supports at all stages of life. Investing in a system that is safe for everyone regardless of wealth, race, disability, or other status would be a significant movement toward safe and equitable care. We urge Gov. Cuomo and other state officials to reimagine and invest in a system that allows people to live with those they love, in their communities and homes. That should start with specific reforms in this year’s Executive Budget next week,” said Miller.