At an Albany event commemorating the tenth anniversary of his son’s death, Michael Carey said he plans to re-introduce a bill that would ensure that injuries suffered by developmentally disabled New Yorkers are properly reported to 911.
The bill would require care facilities to report all significant injuries, medical distress situations and deaths directly to emergency services. Furthermore, anything criminal in nature would be reported to the county district attorney. Failure to do so would constitute a felony.
Denying access to 911 services, Carey says, is a violation of civil rights for those with special needs.
“They’re a forgotten group of people,” said Carey. “To deny them equal protection under the law is discrimination.”
According to the bill sponsors, about 1 million people are under state care in New York who are disabled, addicted, mentally ill, or minors in need of supervision.
The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs was established in June 2013 in order to investigate allegations of abuse of those with developmental disabilities. According to its annual report, the Justice Center fielded 10,727 distinct reports of alleged abuse or neglect in 2016.
Prior to the establishment of the Justice Center, there was no mechanism to track abuse or neglect incidents, investigations, or outcomes across state agencies serving people with special needs. The Justice Center now serves as the state’s central reporting agency and maintains an incident management system, known as the Vulnerable Persons’ Central Register, which accepts reports of all incidents and tracks them to completion, according to last year’s report to the governor.
But Carey is concerned that the Justice Center is allowing some facilities to investigate themselves, and not producing independent and objective reports, hence the need for his 911 reporting bill.
The bill’s justification states that “often it is the case that people with illnesses, disabilities and vulnerabilities suffer incidents of abuse that go unreported. This bill would mandate that even if there is the suspicion of abuse a report has to be made to a 9-1-1 operator, the county district attorney and the vulnerable person’s register.”
The Assembly version of the bill, sponsored by David Weprin in the 2015-16 session, never made it past the mental Health Committee. The Senate version, sponsored by Andrew Lanza, advanced to a third reading last June but never went for a full vote.
Thirteen-year-old Jonathan Carey was killed on Feb. 15, 2007 at the hands of one of his caretakers at the Oswald D. Heck developmental center in Schenectady County. In a trial the following October, Edwin Tirado was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. The jury found that Tirado had improperly restrained Jonathan in the back of a transport van, forcing his weight against Jonathan’s chest until the boy stopped breathing. Upon realizing this, Tirado and the driver of the van neglected to provide medical assistance for more than an hour.
In May of 2007, just three months after the death of their son, Carey and his wife successfully pushed through legislation ensuring that families and legal caretakers would not be left in the dark. Jonathan’s Law provides families and caretakers with legal access to incident reports concerning their loved ones at these state-run or state-managed care facilities.
Ten years later, Michael Carey continues to advocate for protections for the mentally ill and disabled.
The 911 bill is his next priority, followed by a bill that would require the installment of surveillance cameras in both residential facilities and transport vehicles, and another that would regulate and ensure safe working hours for direct care workers.