New York Times New York Region The New York Times
Job Market
Real Estate
Nation Challenged
New York Region
- The City
- Columns
NYT Front Page
Readers' Opinions

Dining & Wine
Home & Garden
Fashion & Style
New York Today
Week in Review
Learning Network
Theater Tickets
NYT Mobile
NYT Store
E-Cards & More
About NYTDigital
Jobs at NYTDigital
Online Media Kit
Our Advertisers
Your Profile
Your Profile
E-Mail Preferences
News Tracker
Premium Account
Site Help
  Home Delivery
Customer Service
Electronic Edition
Media Kit
Text Version
TipsGo to Advanced Search
Search Options divide
go to Member Center Log Out
  Welcome, jimgotts
E-Mail This Article Printer-Friendly Format
Most E-Mailed Articles Single-Page View

April 28, 2002


Great deals at

For Mentally Ill, Death and Misery


Randolph Maddix, a schizophrenic who lived at a private home for the mentally ill in Brooklyn, was often left alone to suffer seizures, his body crumpling to the floor of his squalid room. The home, Seaport Manor, is responsible for 325 starkly ill people, yet many of its workers could barely qualify for fast-food jobs. So it was no surprise that Mr. Maddix, 51, was dead for more than 12 hours before an aide finally checked on him. His back, curled and stiff with rigor mortis, had to be broken to fit him into a body bag.

At Anna Erika, a similar adult home in Staten Island entrusted by the state to care for the mentally ill, three other residents had previously jumped to their deaths when a distraught Lisa Valante, 37, sought help. But it was after 5 p.m. and, as usual, the residents, some so sick they cannot tie their shoes, were expected to fend for themselves. No one stopped Ms. Valante, then, from flinging herself out a seventh-floor window.

Sometimes at these homes, the greatest threat can be the person who sleeps in the next bed. Despite a history of violent behavior, Erik Chapman was accepted at Park Manor in Brooklyn. After four years of roaming the place with a knife, Mr. Chapman stabbed his roommate, Gregory Ridges, more than 20 times. At last, Mr. Chapman was sent to a secure psychiatric facility. Mr. Ridges was sent to Cypress Hills Cemetery at the age of 35.

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Broken elevators are part of the landscape at adult homes like Oceanview Manor in Brooklyn.

  Slide Show: Broken Homes

  Audio: An Advocate Discusses the Conditions in Adult Homes

  26 Adult Homes in the Survey

Related Articles
A yearlong investigation by The Times of adult homes for the mentally ill found neglect, malfeasance and death. First of three articles.

Ingredients of a Failing System: A Lack of State Money, a Group Without a Voice (April 28, 2002)

Hospital Records on Erik Chapman (pdf) (April 28, 2002)

Excerpts From Inspectors' Findings on Randolph Maddix (pdf) (April 28, 2002)


Nursing Homes
Mental Health and Disorders
Medicine and Health
New York City
Create Your Own | Manage Alerts
Take a Tour
Sign Up for Newsletters

The Century in Times Square

Buy this book for $21.00 .

Nights at the city's adult homes, such as Surf Manor in Brooklyn, are the starkest, when only a janitor or a guard or two remain.

Every day, New Yorkers come face to face with the mentally ill who have ended up on the streets since the state began closing its disgraced psychiatric wards more than a generation ago. Mr. Maddix, Ms. Valante and Mr. Ridges were among thousands more who ended up in dozens of privately run and state-regulated adult homes in New York City.

A yearlong reporting effort by The New York Times, drawing upon more than 5,000 pages of annual state inspection reports, 200 interviews with workers, residents and family members, and three dozen visits to the homes show that many of them have devolved into places of misery and neglect, just like the psychiatric institutions before them.

But if The Times's investigation found that the state's own files over the years have chronicled a stunning array of disorder and abuse at many of the homes, it discovered that the state has not kept track of what could be the greatest indicator of how broken the homes are: how many residents are dying, under what circumstances and at what ages.

The Times's investigation has produced the first full accounting of deaths of adult home residents. At 26 of the largest and most troubled homes in the city, which collectively shelter some 5,000 mentally ill people, The Times documented 946 deaths from 1995 through 2001. Of those, 326 were of people under 60, including 126 in their 20's, 30's and 40's.

At two of the largest homes, Leben Home in Queens and Seaport Manor in Brooklyn, roughly a quarter of the 145 residents who died were under 50. The Times's analysis of the deaths used Social Security, state, court and coroner's records, as well as psychiatric and medical files.

The analysis shows that some residents died roasting in their rooms during heat waves. Others threw themselves from rooftops, making up some of at least 14 suicides in that seven-year period. Still more, lacking the most basic care, succumbed to routinely treatable ailments, from burst appendixes to seizures.

Some of the hundreds of deaths undoubtedly stemmed from natural causes and were unavoidable. Studies have found that the mentally ill typically have shorter life expectancies than the general population, because they have difficulty caring for themselves and are more prone to health problems. The average age of death in the overall survey was 63.

There are few extensive studies on death rates of the mentally ill in facilities like adult homes. But Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who is a nationally recognized expert on mental illness and mortality, called The Times's analysis disturbing.

"It would certainly suggest a fair number of deaths that were premature," said Dr. Torrey, who is executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., and is familiar with the adult home system in New York City. "There is no question that if these people were getting better care and more skilled care, they would be living longer. And this poor care leading to death is going to cut right across the age population. It also means that people who are 70 are dying prematurely."

In the end, whether the residents were in their 20's or 70's, it is impossible to know just how many of their deaths could have been prevented. The only other accounting of the dead seems to be on Hart Island in the East River, where scores of adult home residents are buried in the mass graves of potter's field.

Officials at the State Department of Health, which regulates the homes, acknowledge that they have never enforced a 1994 law that requires the homes to report all deaths to the state. Asked for records of any investigations into deaths at the homes, the department produced files on only 3 of the nearly 1,000 deaths.

None of the suicides were among the three. Even the fatal stabbing of Mr. Ridges at Park Manor went unexamined by the department. The city medical examiner's office said it had not received a single inquiry in recent memory from state inspectors regarding an autopsy of an adult home resident.

Neither Gov. George E. Pataki nor his health commissioner, Dr. Antonia C. Novello, would comment on The Times's investigation. Their aides said a deputy health commissioner would speak for the administration.

Presented with The Times's findings, the deputy health commissioner, Robert R. Hinckley, said the department would examine "ways to better investigate those deaths that are reported to us."

To that end, Mr. Hinckley said the state would issue a regulation alerting the homes that it would strictly enforce the 1994 law on reporting deaths.

"We want facilities to follow the law, and we are redoubling our efforts to get them to report all deaths," he said.

As of Friday, seven weeks after Mr. Hinckley's promise, the department had still not issued the regulation.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Next>>
Home | Back to New York Region | Search | Help Back to Top

E-Mail This Article Printer-Friendly Format
Most E-Mailed Articles Single-Page View

Start the day informed with home delivery of The New York Times newspaper. Click Here for 50% off.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information