Joe Robach announced that the Senate will act next week on legislation to reform and strengthen protections for more than one million state residents with special needs who are served by facilities and programs operated, licensed and certified by State agencies.

The Protection of People With Special Needs Act (S.7400), was submitted by the Governor recently.  The bill, supported by Joe Robach and the Senate majority, will enhance the safety net for children and adults who receive care from New York’s human service agencies and programs and are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

The legislation includes the following provisions that would create standard definitions for “abuse” and “neglect;”create the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs; Strengthen criminal statutes that make abuse of vulnerable or disabled persons a crime; and promote transparency by requiring non-state operated and provider agencies to disclose the same records relating to abuse and neglect as state agencies are required to under the Freedom of Information Law.

Responsibilities for the new Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs would include: Ensuring that allegations of abuse and neglect are promptly, fully and effectively investigated, reported and prosecuted; Operating a statewide 24-hour hotline staffed by trained personnel to which mandated reporters will be required to report allegations of abuse and neglect; Requiring providers to implement corrective action plans to prevent future incidents of abuse and neglect; Developing a register that will contain the names of individuals found responsible for egregious or repeated acts of abuse or neglect, and bar such individuals from future employment in the care of people with special needs; Conducting the criminal history background checks for people applying to be an employee, volunteer or consultant at any facilities or provider agencies operated, licensed or certified by OMH, OPWDD, OASAS or OCFS; Providing oversight of the human services system, conducting death and abuse investigations, and identifying risks and best practices to promote improved quality of care for people with special needs; and Developing codes of conduct to which all workers who have regular contact with people with special needs must subscribe.

Joe Robach and the Senate believe that this legislation represents a significant reform effort to change a system that is badly in need of stronger oversight and accountability and stronger protections for children and adults that depend on that system for care.  For more information, contact Joe Robach’s Senate office.