Weisenberg Legislation Aims to Curb Abuse at State Homes for People with Disabilities

Creates a prior-abuse notification system for OPWDD providers
June 16, 2011
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) announced the Assembly passed legislation he authored that would require the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to provide group homes and institutions with the criminal histories of prospective employees (A.8330). This was part of a legislative package aimed at improving care at state-run facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

“My son, who is developmentally disabled, experienced both verbal and physical abuse at a group home,” Weisenberg said. “No one should ever endure that kind of mistreatment, especially our most vulnerable New Yorkers. This legislation will help protect individuals with disabilities at these institutions and ensure they receive the quality care they deserve.”

The New York Times recently published a series of articles on the abuse of people with developmental disabilities at state-run institutions. In response, the Assembly held a series of statewide public hearings to review policies on group homes and explore safety measures to protect residents of these facilities.

Weisenberg’s legislation would allow OPWDD providers to request information from the agency on the criminal histories of job applicants and volunteers, in addition to any reports filed against them for abuse or neglect of an individual with developmental disabilities. Prospective employees would have the right to access and respond to these reports.

“This measure will provide additional oversight in the hiring process for direct care workers,” Weisenberg said. “Giving facilities access to this information will help prevent individuals with disabilities from being put in the care of those with a history of abuse.”

The Assembly passed additional legislation, sponsored by Weisenberg, to improve safety at OPWDD facilities. These measures would require immediate reporting of violent crimes that occur at mental hygiene facilities (A.8325); standardize training for providers (A.8323); ensure that abuse and neglect investigations involving an employee continue whether or not the employee resigns their position (A.8324); and limit required work hours for direct care employees.

Assemblyman Weisenberg has been a leading voice for people with developmental disabilities in New York State. He authored Jonathan’s Law, which gives parents access to reports of abuse or other incidents involving their children in a mental hygiene facility. The law was named after Jonathan Carry, a 13-year-old with autism who died in the care of an OPWDD facility.