September 17, 1987 marked the birth of a new era for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities as Governor Mario M. Cuomo declared the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island "officially and forever closed."
The closure came after years of public outcry over the deplorable conditions at Willowbrook and the treatment of the people who resided there.
It all came to a head in 1972, when television journalist Geraldo Rivera exposed the stories of neglect and abuse occurring behind the doors of Willowbrook for all of the nation and world to watch in horror.
It forever changed the way society viewed people with developmental disabilities and sparked a movement in New York and nationwide to reform service delivery systems and recognize the unalienable civil rights for people with developmental disabilities.
It also sparked a lawsuit by those who resided at Willowbrook and their families.
That same year, action on the lawsuit began in U.S. District Court seeking to correct unacceptable conditions at the Willowbrook State School. By May of 1972, the Willowbrook Consent Decree became effective on behalf of Willowbrook residents and their families, referred to as 'class members'.
This landmark lawsuit became a symbol for raising the conscience of the nation to support community integration and to establish high standards for humane conditions for all residential opportunities.
In 1993, the Willowbrook Permanent Injunction was signed which represents the current standard of services for class members.
This Beyond Willowbrook section of the OPWDD website, outlines the services, rights and protections for Willowbrook class members and provides access to forms and guidance materials to assist you.
Discover the rights and entitlements for Willowbrook class members.
Learn the process for getting proper permission before a health care intervention or disclosing personal information.