To Protect Vulnerable New Yorkers AT DDI
(Smithtown, NY) Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), the leading service provider for children and adults with autism on Long Island, was selected to host the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Michael F. Hogan’ press conference to present Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s new legislation to establish the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs and disabilities. Governor Cuomo’s bill will create a new Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, an initiative that will transform how the state protects over one million New Yorkers in state operated, certified, or licensed facilities and programs.
“DDI is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being to over 5,000 children and adults with Autism and other developmental disabilities through its numerous programs and sites across Long Island,” stated DDI Executive Director John Lessard. “That is why DDI couldn’t be happier to have the Commissioner select DDI to announce the Governor’s legislation that will help to keep all special needs individuals we across New York State safe.”
The Justice Center will have a Special Prosecutor and Inspector General for the Protection of People with Special Needs who will investigate reports of abuse and neglect and prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses. It will also include a 24/7 hotline run by trained professionals, a comprehensive statewide database that will track all reports of abuse and neglect, and a statewide register of workers who have committed serious acts of abuse who will be prohibited from ever working with people with disabilities or special needs.
Commissioner Hogan said, “The reforms included in Governor Cuomo’s legislation will allow our state to protect the lives and rights of vulnerable New Yorkers. Through these reforms, we will be able to both prevent abuse and bring swift justice should any wrongdoing occur. Now is the time to take action to protect the over one million New Yorkers with special needs.”
Governor Cuomo’s proposed Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs will have primary responsibility for tracking, investigating, and pursuing serious abuse and neglect complaints for facilities and provider agencies that are operated, certified, or licensed by the following six agencies: The Department of Health (DOH); the Office of Mental Health (OMH); the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD); the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS); the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS); and the State Education Department (SED). The Justice Center will also absorb all functions and responsibilities of the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, with the exception of the Federal Protection and Advocacy and Client Assistance Programs that will be designated to a qualified non-profit.
Other components and responsibilities of the proposed Justice Center include the following:
- An Executive Director, Special Prosecutor and Inspector General, and a substantial staff of trained investigators, lawyers, and administrators. The Justice Center’s law enforcement branch will have concurrent authority with district attorneys to prosecute abuse and neglect crimes committed against such persons.
- Creation of a statewide 24/7 hotline staffed by trained professionals to ensure that allegations of abuse are promptly reported to law enforcement and fully and effectively investigated.
- Development of a register of workers who have committed serious acts of abuse who will be prohibited from ever being hired again in any position where they would work with people with disabilities or special needs.
- Representing the state at all disciplinary proceedings relating to substantiated allegations of abuse and neglect.
- Development of common standards for investigations and requirements to be used to train investigators.
- Development of a Code of Conduct containing the basic ethical standards to which all individuals working with people with special needs and disabilities would be required to subscribe and would be held accountable.
- Consolidation of background check procedures, including reviewing and evaluating the criminal history for any person applying to be an employee, volunteer, or consultant requiring a background check at any facility or provider agency operated, licensed, or certified by OMH, OPWDD, OASAS, and OCFS.
- Providing an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature concerning its work during the preceding year that will include data on central register reports, results of investigations, types of corrective actions taken, results of its review of patterns and trends relating to abuse and reporting of abuse, suggested corrective actions, and training efforts.
“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York State protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” said Governor Cuomo. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve.”
Residents are encouraged to log on to DDI’s website to see the full video of the press conference at www.ddiny.org,
DDI is a not-for-profit agency headquartered in Smithtown, NY, with more than 30 locations throughout Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Serving nearly 1,000 children and adults with a diagnosis of an autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), DDI is the largest provider of services for individuals with Autism on Long Island. It provides special educational, vocational, day and residential programs, as well as healthcare services for over 5,000 children and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities. DDI also operates family-centered preschool programs for both children with disabilities as well as typically developing students. DDI was founded in 1961 by a group of parents to address the special educational and therapeutic needs of their children with autism or other developmental disabilities. DDI is a member agency of the United Way of Long Island. For more information about DDI, visit www.ddiny.org.