Jaffee, Zebrowski: Assembly Legislative Package Cracks Down on Abuse of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

-Legislation would help protect individuals in OPWDD-licensed facilities and programs by strengthening safety measures-

Albany, NY - Assemblymembers Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) and Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City) today announced the Assembly passed a comprehensive package of bills aimed at improving safety measures in New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)-licensed facilities and programs.

“The protection of our state’s most vulnerable citizens is a critical priority, and one which must extend to OPWDD-licensed facilities,” said Jaffee. “This package will help safeguard those with developmental disabilities by ensuring the penalties for abuse and training to avoid it are in place among staff caring for them.”

“The abuse and neglect of some individuals with developmental disabilities in OPWDD-licensed facilities and programs is appalling,” said Zebrowski. “This legislation will put in place necessary safeguards that will provide training for employees, impose strict penalties for abusers and protection for our most vulnerable residents.”

The Assembly passed the legislative package following a series of four public hearings statewide that examined allegations of abuse in group homes and institutions throughout the state. The statewide hearings documented a number of troubling cases of alleged abuse and neglect and clearly demonstrated the need for comprehensive reform. The resulting legislation would create a prior-abuse notification system for employers to prevent potential employees who have a history of abuse from working with vulnerable individuals (A.8330 EJ); mandatory immediate reporting of violent crimes (A.8325 EJ); and standardized training for providers (A.8323 EJ).

The Assembly’s legislative package also includes bills that would:

  • ensure that abuse and neglect investigations involving an employee continue whether the employee resigns his or her position or not, and notices of this policy must be provided to all current and new employees of OPWDD providers (A.8324);
  • require OPWDD to make at least three unannounced visits. Currently, OPWDD is required to make at least two facility visits per year where only one of the two visits is unannounced. The bill also would authorize any Developmental Disability Services Office (DDSO) Board of Visitor member or any other individual approved by the commissioner to attend an inspection as an independent monitor (A.6665-A); and
  • ensure that the DDSO ombudsman is an independent advocate by making him or her an employee of the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. Currently, the ombudsman is an employee of OPWDD (A.8322).

    The final bill in the legislative package would limit the work week for direct-care workers to less than 60 hours during a seven-day work week except in cases of extraordinary emergency (A.8127-A).