Along with most New Yorkers, I was shocked to read the New York Times’ exposé this week on the widespread abuse and negligence in our state-run homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. As a newly-elected official and as the appointed Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly Mental Health Committee, I am particularly sickened by this report and determined to bring some justice to the victims of these disgusting crimes.
As the Ranking Minority Member, I was quickly brought up to speed on the mental health issues facing our state. Every day, constituents, groups and organizations have contacted my office regarding these issues, including Autism, post traumatic stress disorder, and funding for some of our excellent (and privately-run) local institutions, such as Green Chimney’s – a residential treatment center and school for children with special needs in Brewster. Although I’ve only been on the job for a couple months, I already feel a special pride for the hard work of those trying to improve the lives of those with disabilities, and – moreover – a deep respect and admiration for the individuals who are living with disabilities.
Because of my experience, I am absolutely sickened by the New York Times’ report and, now, I am calling for the Attorney General to take immediate action to clean house at state-run homes for the developmentally disabled.
In addition to seeking the strictest criminal penalties for those guilty of the abuse, I am asking the Attorney General to do everything in his power to punish those who turned a blind eye to these horrific crimes.
Furthermore, to ensure this sort of widespread abuse can never happen again, I am calling on the Governor and State Legislature to immediately convene a special task force with the Attorney General to investigate the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, pass stricter laws to protect individuals with developmental disabilities, and reform how our state-run homes are managed to provide greater oversight and resident protections.
Already, the governor has taken action by looking into these allegations and replacing the officials who turned a blind eye. I also would like to commend my colleagues who serve on the Mental Health Committees in each house of the legislature who came together for a joint press conference today in Albany. This is truly a bipartisan issue, and I will continue working with my colleagues and the governor to do everything we can to right this terrible wrong.