Families concerned about young adults' living facility choices

Is a state facility the appropriate placement for autistic young people?

Writing under the headline, “State seeks to move severely autistic clients to secure facility,” in the Albany (NY, US) Times Union, Brendan J. Lyons reported about families of autistic young adults facing difficult choices about living facilities for their children. Here is his lede:

The parents of adults afflicted with conditions such as severe autism say they are being forced by a state agency to choose between sending their child to a fenced-in institutional facility in the far reaches of the Adirondacks, or face the prospect of losing funding for their long-term care.

Mr. Lyons reported about two families, both of which had used out-of-state programs for their children until they aged out of coverage. Interestingly, both apparently had been receiving services at the Judge Rotenberg Education Center in Canton, MA, a program that provides education and training for individuals with severe problems; from Mr. Lyons's reporting, the families seemed pleased with those services.

At issue is whether the facility recommended by the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, the Sunmount Developmental Center in Tupper Lake (NY), is a suitable placement and whether the young adults have due process rights related to deciding on a placement. The Office of People with Developmental Disabilities apparently will not pay for alternative placements.

Over the years, Sunmount has received negative publicity. In 2011, Danny Hakim of the New York Times reported that four years earlier a 13-year-old boy who had autism was crushed to death and that investigations uncovered other instances of abuse. In 2018, Aaron Cerbone of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that registered sex offenders were residents at Sunmount; Mr. Cerbone reported that “Many of the developmentally disabled have been moved out of the main Sunmount facility and into the group homes in the community” away from the population that includes sex offenders.

Let’s hope that Sunmount’s administration and staff have adequately addressed those historic problems.


Cerbone, A. (2018, Deptember 27). Sex offenders in group homes for disabled isn’t new in Tupper Lake. Adirondack Daily Enterprise. https://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/news/local-news/2018/09/sex-offenders-in-group-homes-for-disabled-isnt-new-in-tupper-lake/

Hakim, D. (2011, June 5). A disabled boy’s death, and a system in disarray. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/nyregion/boys-death-highlights-crisis-in-homes-for-disabled.html

Lyons, B. J. (2021, September 12). State seeks to move severely autistic clients to secure facility: Lawmakers, parents say state agency exploiting 'loophole' that prevents disabled from receiving least restrictive care. Albany Times Union. https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/State-seeks-to-move-severely-autistic-clients-to-16449176.php