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State Agency: Abuses Down Sharply At Facilities For The Disabled

(credit: Clipart.com, FILE)

(credit: Clipart.com, FILE)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York state agency responsible for care and services for the disabled said Monday that abuse allegations have declined sharply at state-run facilities.

The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities said abuse allegations dropped 22 percent in state-run facilities, and 9.5 percent at facilities operated by nonprofit contractors, last year compared with the year before.

The office cited reforms over the past two years, including better incident reporting and investigations, for the decline.

The agency recorded 10,572 abuse allegations in 2012, down from 12,169 in 2011.

“In the last two years we have put several reforms in place, particularly in the areas of strengthening our workforce, incident reporting and investigations,” Commissioner Courtney Burke said. “While there is still much work to be done, we are making progress.”

Critics say the state needs to do more, including installing video cameras at institutions to deter staff from harming or neglecting disabled residents and require direct reporting to independent police and prosecutors instead of internal staff reviews. Michael Carey, an advocate for the disabled whose 13-year-old autistic son was killed in OPWDD care in 2007, said accounts from whistleblowers suggest many more cases go unreported to police.

“I’m not going to say they’ve done nothing,” Carey said. “But I haven’t seen anything they’ve done to dramatically reduce abuse and neglect.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year pushed through legislation to establish a new inspector general and prosecutor, scheduled to start operating this summer with more than 400 staff. They will oversee six state agencies and contractors responsible for residential and day services for about a million New Yorkers with disabilities and special needs under state-funded care.

According to OPWDD, its recent measures included protocols for all providers to consistently report physical abuse that may be criminal to police, establishing a central incident management unit to follow reports of abuse and neglect, require the nonprofits report all critical incidents to the central system, streamlining staff discipline, immediately suspending workers without pay for substantiated cases of physical and sexual abuse and negotiating for a union contract with a table of penalties to be used by arbitrators in abuse and neglect cases.

The agency said all its 23,000 employees now must attend a yearly ethics training to reinforce the principles of individual respect and dignity for the disabled.

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