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2012: NYS Care of the Disabled by Danny Hakim

NYS Care of the Disabled by Danny Hakim

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 April 2012 10:45 Written by harris Thursday, 19 April 2012 08:21

Danny Hakim, award-wining writer for the NY Times, wrote a timely article published on March 22, 2012. Here is a link  to the article,  excerpted below.   In 2011, Mr. Hakim and a Times colleague, Russ Buettner, collaborated on a series of articles called “Abused and Used” that focused on abuse, neglect and deadly mistakes in New York’s system of caring for developmentally disabled people.  In April 2012, the series was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The Pulitzer board said the series “revealed rapes, beatings and more than 1,200 unexplained deaths over the past decade of developmentally disabled people in NYS group homes.”

A leak of the 2010 report points to giant shortcomings in the system to care for the disabled, including OPWDD (Office of People With Developmental Disabilities) which Courtney Burke now heads up.  She was appointed in March, 2011 but since the 2010 report hasn’t been issued, it seems unlikely that we will soon be seeing any evidence that she’s made any improvement.

It is in this environment, of secrecy and unreleased documentation, that decisions about closing the Monroe Developmental Center, privatizing care with less experienced care-givers, sending people such as sex offenders willy nilly into communities which don’t want them, not coordinating with towns or being willing to hold hearings, that the Middlesex IRA and our community finds itself.  Can the following build any feelings of confidence?

“State Faults Care for the Disabled”

“Nearly 300,000 disabled and mentally ill New Yorkers face a “needless risk of harm” because of conflicting regulations, a lack of oversight and even disagreements over what constitutes abuse, according to a draft state report obtained by The New York Times.

In 2010, the number of abuse accusations at large institutions overseen by the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities outnumbered the beds in those facilities…

…Problems were found at all six state agencies that provide residential service to children and adults with an array of disabilities, mental illnesses or other issues that qualify them to receive specialized care by the state.

According to the report, a regulatory maze has complicated and in some cases constrained the state’s response to claims of abuse.   At one agency, the police are summoned if “there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” while another agency does so only if a potential felony has been committed.   A third agency turns to law enforcement only if a local district attorney has “indicated a prior interest,” ….

Claims of firing people, or improving administration, or making up new rules  (such as criminal background checks of staff members who work with the vulnerable) don’t mean much unless the statistics are supplied.  And are these the “extra staff” Michael Feeney referred to at Emergency Meeting #2 or not?  Should we be worried about the staff as well as the potential occupants?

“…we are currently working on a transformational reform plan based on the report that will be announced soon,” said Richard Bamberger, the governor’s communications director.

,,, Michael Carey, an advocate for the developmentally disabled whose son with autism died in state care in 2007, said he was concerned that the governor was waiting to address the issue until after legislative budget negotiations, which could make it more difficult to find money for new programs.  “It’s gross negligence that that report has not come out, and it’s beyond frustrating,” Mr. Carey said, adding, “The reforms to date are baby steps towards monster problems.”

The Times last year identified numerous problems with the state’s care for the developmentally disabled: only 5 percent of abuse accusations were forwarded to law enforcement, and employees who physically or sexually abused the disabled were often transferred among group homes instead of being fired.  Ten percent of deaths of the developmentally disabled in state care were listed… from unknown causes, suggesting widespread failures in efforts to determine why people die in state care.

… executives at some nonprofit organizations hired by the state to care for the disabled have been earning seven-figure annual compensation packages and taking a wide range of Medicaid-financed perks for themselves and their friends and families.

… six state agencies … oversee residential programs for vulnerable populations, at an annual cost of $17.9 billion.

If you use the link above to read the whole story, be sure also to digest some of the readers’ comments at the end.  Very enlightening.

Here are some of the headlines of stories under this topic previously written by Mr. Hakim:

In Treating Disabled, Potent Drugs and Few Rules

Tens of thousands of powerful pills created to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia are given to developmentally disabled people in the care of New York State every day….. psychotropic medications alter the brain’s chemistry, are often dispensed sloppily, without rigorous or regular review…. Jan 11, 2012

U.S. Report Criticizes NY on Monitoring Care of Developmentally Disabled

The federal government sharply criticized NY’s oversight of the developmentally disabled, saying the state agency charged with oversight lacks independence from the governor’s office, failed to account for how it is spending public money and has broken several requirements of federal law.  December 28, 2011

At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity

Decades afterNew York emptied its warehouses for the disabled, the current network of small group homes operates with scant oversight and few consequences for abusive employees. 

Cuomo to Tighten Requirements for Workers in Homes for Disabled

The first steps are unlikely to mollify advocates and aggrieved parents, long frustrated by widespread problems of brutality and neglect.

N.Y. Still Pursues Case Against Whistle-Blower

Over the years, Jeffrey Monsour has filed many Freedom of Information requests examining the practices of the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, and he sees the case being brought against him as its latest attempt at retribution.

A Disabled Boy’s Death, and a System in Disarray

A seemingly inexplicable willingness by supervisors to tolerate abuse seems to pervade institutions that house residents with developmental disabilities, a New York Times investigation shows. 

New York Moves to Crack Down on Abuse of Disabled

The Cuomo administration will establish guidelines for telling law enforcement about crimes against the developmentally disabled.

Progress Claimed in Reporting Abuse at Group Homes

Testimony  before the State Assembly underscored the challenges to improving the system for caring for the developmentally disabled.  November 5, 2011

$5 Million Payment to End Suits Over Death of 13-Year-Old Boy in State Care

Testimony about the death of Jonathan Carey, 13, who was killed in 2007, highlighted widespread lapses in care at the state’s disability agency.  August 2, 2011

For Disabled Care Complaints, Vow of Anonymity Was False

New York State has falsely assured its employees who care for the developmentally disabled that they could confidentially report concerns about the treatment of those in their care.  October 16, 2011

Additional Articles here:

And NYS officials want MORE power?  There is something very wrong with that picture!


If you use the link above to read the whole story, be sure also to digest some of the readers’ comments at the end.  Very enlightening.


Here are some of the headlines of stories under this topic previously written by Mr. Hakim:  Full Story


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