Willowbrook State School, a state-run school for children with intellectual disability on Staten Island whose atrocities and abuses were exposed to the world in 1972 by TV news journalist Geraldo Rivera, was closed in 1987. New York’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) held a “landmark event” November 13, 2007 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of closing Willowbrook and posted the timeline below on its Web site, outlining events related to Willowbrook.
1967 - 27,000 persons with developmental disabilities living in institutions in New York State.
1968 - OMRDD's Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) established.
1972 - Television documentary - written and narrated by TV news journalist Geraldo Rivera - reveals deplorable living conditions at New York's Willowbrook State School.
1972 - Parents of 5,000 persons living at Willowbrook State School file suit in federal court over the inhumane living conditions at the facility.
1972 - First community residence for persons with developmental disabilities opens in New York State.
1974 - State Schools renamed "Developmental Centers".
May 5, 1975 - Willowbrook Consent Decree signed. New York State commits itself to a program of improving community placement for the "Willowbrook class" clients. Shortly thereafter, then Governor Hugh Carey extends similar benefits to all persons served by the OMRDD system.
1977 - Chapter 978 of the Laws of 1977 signed into law creating separate Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD).
April 1, 1978 - OMRDD begins operations. About 16,447 persons reside in developmental centers; 7,340 persons live in community residences; 22,355 persons receive day treatment services. More than 42,800 people served.
1978 - Thomas Coughlin confirmed as OMRDD's first Commissioner.
September 1, 1978 - Site Selection Law (also know as "Padavan Law") takes effect creating a procedural framework for the establishment of community residences for persons with disabilities.
1979 - OMRDD Senior Companion Program, a volunteer initiative for older New Yorkers to serve adults with developmental disabilities, is established.
1980 - James E Introne succeeds Thomas Coughlin as OMRDD commissioner.
1982 - Zymond L. Slezak becomes OMRDD's third Commissioner.
September, 1983 -Arthur Y. Webb confirmed as OMRDD's fourth Commissioner.
December, 1983 - 11,728 persons living in developmental centers; 12,100 persons living in the community; 30,000 individuals receiving day services. More than 45,700 people served.
1983 - Plans announced to close Willowbrook State School.
1984 - Family Support Services program established as a $200,000 demonstration project.
1985 - OMRDD launches Supported Work Program.
March 31, 1986 - Residential census at Staten Island Developmental Center reaches 250 -- original goal of Willowbrook Consent Decree.
June 24, 1986 - Self-Advocacy Association of New York is founded to assist local groups and individuals with developmental disabilities as well as help familiarize legislators and public officials with issues related to independent living, personal choice and program flexibility.
December 3, 1986 - Plans announced to close Westchester Developmental Center.
January 21, 1987 - Plans announced to close five additional Developmental Centers; Craig, Bronx, Manhattan, Rome and Newark.
February 25, 1987 - Federal Court approves Willowbrook "1987 Stipulation" setting forth guidelines for providing community placements for class members.
April 1, 1987 - Bernard Fineson and Wilton DDSOs are the first to replace "Developmental Disabilities Information Survey" (DDIS) with the Developmental Disabilities Profile" (DDP), an important management information tool for individual assessments and program planning.
September 17, 1987- A promise fulfilled; Willowbrook Developmental Center declared "officially and forever closed".
December, 1988 - 16,000 persons living in community residences. About 15,000 families receiving Family Support Services. Less than 9,240 persons living in developmental centers. About 38,000 receiving day treatment. More than 66,200 people are being served.
December 6, 1988 - Craig Developmental Center celebrates closure at the new Dogwood Day Treatment Center in Dansville, NY.
December 15, 1988 - Ceremony marks the closure of Westchester Developmental Center, the third institution to close its doors.
November 29,1989 - Rome Developmental Center becomes the fourth institutional facility to close. Open since May, 1894, it had been one of the first institutions in the United States to care for persons with developmental disabilities.
January, 1990 - OMRDD Commissioner Arthur Y. Webb resigns to become Director of New York State Division of Substance Abuse Services (DSAS).
February 14, 1990 - Elin M. Howe, OMRDD executive Deputy Commissioner nominated to succeed Arthur Webb as Commissioner.
July 26, 1990 - U.S. President George Bush signs the "Americans with Disabilities Act" into law - landmark federal legislation guaranteeing people with disabilities the same rights to employment and access to public facilities as other citizens.
July 16,1991 - Newark Developmental Center, once home to more than 4,000 persons with developmental disabilities becomes fifth institution to officially close its doors.
August 29,1991 - HCFA approves New York's application for HCB Waiver to allow persons to receive certain Medicaid-funded services while living in the community. The Waiver would subsequently become a central component of the Individualized Service Plan, case management and other parts of person-centered planning.
September, 1991 - HCBS Waiver program introduced as pilot program in J.N. Adam, Letchworth, Long Island and Wassaic DDSOs.
September 6 -7, 1991 - Self-Advocacy Association holds its first statewide seminar representing the coming of age of growing consumer empowerment movement in New York State.
December 31, 1991 - Manhattan Developmental Center one of the first facilities opened to ease Willowbrook overcrowding, becomes the sixth facility to close its doors.
May, 1992 - Care-at-Home Waiver Program, similar to HCBS but applicable to children who have a developmental disability and severe medical needs, enrolls 200th child. 1,700 persons served overall through HCBS Waiver.
August 5, 1992 - Landmark legislation signed into law creating statutory definition, State reimbursement policy and plans to expand Family Support Services.
December 8, 1992 - Bronx Developmental Center becomes seventh OMRDD Developmental Center to close.
March 11, 1993 - Willowbrook Permanent Injunction replaces Willowbrook Consent Decree and all other orders in the Willowbrook litigation.
April 20 - 21, 1993 - First statewide Consumer Council Conference held for family service providers in Albany.
April 29, 1993 - JN Adam Developmental Center officially becomes the eighth developmental center to cease operations.
May 3, 1993 - State Division of Budget approves OMRDD's "Community Service Expansion Plan" (CSEP), a "new way of doing business" based on person-centered planning.
June 10, 1993 - Long Island Developmental Center becomes ninth developmental center to close.
September 30, 1993 - Commissioner Elin M. Howe resigns; Executive Deputy Commissioner Thomas A. Maul named Acting Commissioner.
December, 1993 - Developmental Center census; 4,730. Just under 27,000 persons living in community residences; nearly 34,500 receiving Family Support Services; almost 46,000 in day services programs; and over 3,450 enrolled in HCBS Waiver. More than 86,400 consumers served.
December 16, 1993 - Thomas A. Maul conformed by NY State Senate as fifth OMRDD Commissioner.
June 15, 1994 - Center for Intensive Treatment opens on the campus of Sunmount Developmental Center.
June 13,1995 -Thomas A. Maul confirmed as OMRDD Commissioner after being nominated by Governor Pataki to continue serving in this capacity.
May, 1996 - 26,861 consumer enrolled in HCBS Waiver Program, an increase of nearly 25,000 in four years.
June 5, 1996 - Letchworth Village Developmental Center marks closure.
June 17, 1998 - Syracuse Developmental Center, one of the oldest facilities of its kind in North America becomes the latest facility to close.
July, 1998 - As of this date there are nearly 31,900 persons living in the community; more than58,600 receiving day services. About 51,650 receiving family support services. Developmental Center census; just over 2,100 residents. More than 30,000 enrolled in HCBS. Nearly 109,550 consumers served.
August 19, 1998 - Governor George E. Pataki announces "NYS-CARES" (NYS Creating Alternatives in Residential Environments and Services) a five-year plan to virtually eliminate the waiting list for out-of-home residential services for people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.