Miller: Assembly Passes Legislation to Protect the Disabled from Abuse

March 2, 2010

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Queens) announced the Assembly passed legislation that would make it a felony for a caregiver to endanger the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person if the caregiver intentionally or recklessly causes physical or serious physical injury to that person or subjects that person to sexual contact without consent (A.9534). While similar legislation was vetoed by the governor in 2009, Assemblyman Miller said he is hopeful the common-sense measure will be approved in 2010.

“Under existing law, caregivers who are found guilty of endangering the welfare of vulnerable elderly persons may be convicted as class E or class D felons, and, depending on the harm inflicted, be sent to prison for up to seven years,” Assemblyman Miller said. “However, it is only a misdemeanor to endanger the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, who may be just as vulnerable as an elderly person. This legislation will correct this obvious inequity and afford the same protection to other individuals who are under the care of others and are unable to protect themselves.”

Jonathan’s Law (Ch. 24 of 2007) was enacted as a result of the tragic death of Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old autistic boy who died while in the care of two health care aides employed by the state’s O.D. Heck Developmental Center in Schenectady County, where Carey was a resident. Carey stopped breathing when he was allegedly restrained by one of the aides while in a van en route to a nearby shopping mall.

“We need to crack down on these types of heinous crimes,” Assemblyman Miller said. “Disabled people deserve to be protected from abuse, and abusers deserve to face stiff and harsh punishments.”

Jonathan’s Law allows parents and guardians of individuals with mental disabilities access to records pertaining to their loved ones. Further legislation requires state agencies and facilities to honor written requests by family members for patient records as far back as 2003 regarding investigations of patient abuse or maltreatment (Ch. 271 of 2007).

“I will continue fighting to ensure vulnerable people are protected from those who cause them harm,” Assemblyman Miller said.