Protecting vulnerable New Yorkers
Governor Cuomo is calling for a new program to safeguard those he calls vulnerable New Yorkers. In 2011, there were more than 10,000 claims of abuse against those with special needs or disabled who are receiving services from state funded programs. The Justice Center, proposed by Cuomo would set new standards for care and put in place a mechanism to discipline those who violate the new rules. YNN's Bill Carey says the Governor took to the road in Syracuse to press for quick legislative approval.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Michael Kennedy had a story to tell. A story about blowing the whistle on abuse in a state facility and the price he paid at the hands of a state worker.
“As I was getting ready to take a shower, he put me in the shower chair. Then he proceeded to put the cold water on me, all the way and then he went out and got a steel mop bucket with wheels, filled it up with snow and poured it all over my body and then left me there till the next day,” Kennedy said.
Stories like Kennedy’s are what Governor Andrew Cuomo said prompted him to press for an overhaul of the system used to safeguard vulnerable New Yorkers.
“And one of the central purposes of this legislation is to have an aggressive program of investigation and prosecution of people who commit serious crimes against the disabled,” said Clarence Sundram, Governor’s Advisor on Vulnerable Persons.
The Governor's plan would cover those in programs at large state facilities, but also in thousands of other settings ranging from residential centers to foster care. Close to a million New Yorkers. The governor saying it's a problem that has been ignored for far too long.
Cuomo said, “It's behind closed doors. It's not open to public view. It happens in the middle of the night. It happens to people that are voiceless. If you ask me what is more important, what we do in terms of the economy or what we do in terms of treating people, it's not even close. The economics, the budget, the jobs, that's all this. How we treat people is all this. And this is who we are.”
The bill won quick and unanimous approval from the republican controlled State Senate, but Cuomo is facing some pushback in the democratic led State Assembly. Pushback that Cuomo says makes no sense.
“In Albany, there's always a reason not to do something. Right? And for every reform, it's change and change brings about opposition. Have I heard any good reason not to do this? No,” Cuomo said.
With seven weeks left in the legislative session, he's hoping public support will help change minds in the Assembly.
Some critics of the Governor's plan say there should be broader mandates for reporting of abuse leading to criminal investigations by police. They say a new state agency, with a new set of guidelines, is not the answer.