Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) announced today that Governor Cuomo has signed into law a chapter amendment to his legislation, which requires the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to provide group homes and institutions with the criminal histories of prospective employees (Ch. 6 of 2012). The chapter amendment ensures that OPWDD has the time needed to properly create the prior-abuse notification system required by Assemblyman Weisenberg’s legislation.
“This is a positive step in ensuring that some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers do not have to endure verbal or physical abuse,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg. “My son, who is developmentally disabled, has experienced both types of abuse at a group home. I am thankful to Governor Cuomo for working with us to help curb this abuse.”
Weisenberg’s legislation, which unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature in 2011, will 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 will have the right to access and respond to these reports.
In response to the series of articles published in The New York Times about the abuse of people with developmental disabilities at state-run institutions, 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.
“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,” Weisenberg said. “Working with the governor on this legislation has allowed more effective protections to be put into place, helping to ensure that those with a developmental disability don’t fall victim to unnecessary and unwarranted mistreatment.”
Last year, Weisenberg sponsored two other laws aimed at improving safety in New York’s OPWDD facilities. These laws include requiring immediate reporting of violent crimes that occur at mental hygiene facilities (Ch. 558 of 2011) and ensuring that abuse and neglect investigations involving an employee continue whether or not the employee resigns his or her position (Ch. 588 of 2011).
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 (Ch. 24 of 2007). The law was named after Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old with autism who died in the care of an OPWDD facility.