She’s fighting cancer but has to move since NYS closed her group home

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NEWARK, N.Y. – A handful of state-run group homes in the Finger Lakes are closing and now people who rely so much on stability have about two months before they move.

In the 1970’s there was a terrible accident in Henrietta. A car hit a 12-year-old girl and caused massive brain damage. She was raised by her parents and sister. She’s lived in her state group home for six years. She was diagnosed with cancer four months ago. Now she’s got to move because there’s not enough people to take care of her.

“This is Tammy,” Susan Fountaine said showing a photo of her sister.

Fountaine showed me her favorite pictures of her sister Tammy. Tammy lives in a group home in Newark, Wayne County, but the state called Susan to say they’re suspending the home.

“And I was confused as to what that meant and they basically told me it’s closing,” Fountaine said.

Berkeley Brean: “So she was diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas?”
Susan Fountaine: “Uh huh.”
Brean: “She’s going through cancer treatment?”
Susan: “Yes.”
Brean: “And now she’s got to move?”
Susan: “She’s got to move. She’s not going to have any of the staff that’s with her.”

This has been a problem since COVID. In 2021, the state closed several group homes in the Finger Lakes because of what it called, “A workforce shortage of crisis proportions.”

When I contacted the state about the closures now it mentioned staffing again writing:

“The temporary suspension of facilities is never the first option and is only considered when other efforts to achieve appropriate staffing levels have been exhausted. OPWDD has had to implement temporary measures to ensure the safety of people living in group homes that are unable to maintain conditions that provide for the safety of residents. We understand how disruptive temporary suspensions are to people’s lives, and we continuously evaluate our residential footprint to maintain health and safety with as little disruption as possible. This includes engaging with families prior to having to move a loved one and continuing that outreach to ensure that relocations occur as close to the family’s home as possible. “

The state did not say how many people are moving, but one family whose loved one is moving, told me up to nine group homes are closing, moving up to 80 people, including Tammy Fountaine.

Brean: “What’s your concern?”
Susan: “I understand they’re short staffed. I totally understand that. But I don’t think closing group home after group home is going to solve it because you’re still going to be short staffed.”

Fountaine believe’s her sister’s move date is June 14. She’s afraid to tell her while she’s getting radiation treatment.

The families might find comfort when the state says this is temporary. But, when I covered the closures two years ago, a doctor who oversaw state group homes told me he’s never seen a group home close and then reopen.