Last Monday, Gov. Cuomo announced legislation “to establish the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs and disabilities.”
The governor’s office also released a long-awaited report from his Special Advisor on Vulnerable Persons, which provides an in-depth analysis of the problems and recommends reforms.
The governor has proposed the creation of the new Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs as part of his plan to overhaul how the state protects the more than one million New Yorkers in State operated, certified or licensed facilities and programs.
The Justice Center will have a Special Prosecutor and Inspector General for the Protection of People with Special Needs; it will be responsible for investigating reports of abuse and neglect and prosecuting matters that are criminal in nature. The proposal includes an around-the-clock abuse hotline and a statewide database to track abuse and neglect reports. It will also include a statewide registry of persons who have been convicted of abusing or neglecting persons under their care, which is intended to prevent such persons from working with people with disabilities or special needs.
If enacted into law, the new agency will oversee people in facilities operated, certified or licensed by the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Office of alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS), the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), and the State Education Department (SED). It will have concurrent criminal jurisdiction with district attorneys, and is expected to have some 400 employees.
At a cabinet meeting later in the week, Gov. Cuomo announced that he will travel around the state to build support for his plan ensure that the Legislature acts on it before the end of the legislative session in June.