Press-Republican

Albany Round-up

June 18, 2012

NY agrees to sweeping reform of disabled care

ALBANY — ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Some of New York's most vulnerable citizens will be protected by a hotline, special investigators and other measures aimed at improving a system marked by years of abuse and death among the disabled in state facilities.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders said Sunday they agreed on a sweeping reform which, for the governor, fulfills a major legislative goal. The deal was announced in time for the bill to be passed by end of the Legislature's regular session on Thursday. Saying this issue is "personal," Cuomo had threatened to keep lawmakers in Albany beyond Thursday if the measure didn't become law.

Recent governors have been dogged for years by outcry from whistle blowers within the system and a chilling New York Times series that was published this year about abuse in the massive bureaucracy caring for 1 million people. The system cares for mentally and physically disabled New Yorkers of all ages along with those with what are defined as special needs, such as those resulting from autism.

The bill will include a hotline for workers and others to report abuse, a special prosecutor and an inspector general for the protection of people with special needs.

In response to a push by the Assembly's Democratic majority for greater independent oversight of the new "justice center" system, an advisory board will be established.

"This new law will help us protect the civil rights of the more than 1 million New Yorkers with disabilities and special needs who for too long have not had the protections and justice they deserve," Cuomo said Sunday.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his need for independence in the system was addressed.

"The Empire State's system for the care and treatment of people with disabilities will be transformed," Silver said. "With the creation of an independent Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, parents will be able to get information on allegations of abuse and know that these cases are taken seriously."

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