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State closes home

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Neighbors concerned about a group of grown men they said were eating out of garbage cans and urinating on sidewalks may finally be getting some answers about the troubled house that these men called home.

It appears that the Office of Mental Health was licensing an operation of an out-patient program, similar concept to foster care, for older adult males with mental impairments at 2853 Lawton Avenue, between Revere and Calhoun avenues.

According to findings coming from Senator Jeff Klein’s office, OMH declined specific comment about the type of mental impairment the men suffered, but acknowledged that they had been recently released from Bronx State Psychiatric Center with hopes of rehabilitation.

“We reached out to OMH and found this type of facility is called a family care residence,” Adam Haight, chief-of-staff for Klein, said. “It is essentially what a foster home is to an orphan. We are not sure what was the extent of supervision they were receiving.”

According to Haight, the residents have now left the residence because it was shut down, and they have now been sent back to Bronx State Psychiatric Center. The men in the residence were supposed to be living with a sponsoring family, who technically, should have been caring for them.

“There was no notification to the community because OMH said their disabilities are a protected class and not applicable under Padavan’s Law,” Haight said, referencing a state law requiring community notification when group homes come into an area.

“There is currently no notification requirement for this type of facility. The fact is that when there was a problem, no one knew where to go to or who to contact,” he said.

The residence was supposed to provide the individuals, which neighbors say numbered at least three and possibly as many as five men, a way back into society.

“The parameters of Padavan’s Law has to be opened up, otherwise we are going to have homes we are not aware of like these,” said Lynn Gerbino, president of the Throggs Neck Home Owners Association. “When mentally challenged people move into the neighborhood, whatever their ages, we need to know. It is our community.”

The sponsoring individual or family receives a set amount of money for each of the people they must take care of from New York State, according to sources. The owner of the two-family home is listed on a Department of Finance document as Robert Benedito.

“The Throggs Neck Home Owners Association is going to file a complaint with OMH,” one neighbor from the otherwise quiet block stated. “I wanted them to be eating, not eating out of garbage cans. They should have been fed.”

The neighbor said that the final straw was seeing the men who lived in the house urinating in the street. “According to the people I have spoken with, it seems like they have been gone for two to three weeks,” a resident confirmed.

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