State Senator Charles Fuschillo (8th District) today took part in a State Senate public hearing in Albany that evaluated the care and treatment given to New Yorkers with developmental disabilities at state facilities and what can be done to reform state law to give parents more access to information about their own children.
The hearing focused on the case of Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old boy with severe autism who recently died while being improperly physically restrained by two workers of the state’s O.D. Heck Development Center in the Capital District. His parents had already unsuccessfully attempted to obtain information about an earlier abuse incident when Jonathan died.
Senator Fuschillo said, "Children with severe developmental disabilities may literally not have a voice to tell a parent if they are being abused. In those instances, their parents and guardians must be able to speak for them. But they can’t be an advocate for their children if they are denied access to important information. The reforms that we called for during the hearing would give parents the information they need to protect their children."
Jonathan Carey’s parents testified at the hearing in favor of Jonathan’s Law (S. 3105), sponsored by Senator Morahan, which would allow parents of children who are in state facilities access to information about their care, treatment or possible abuse. Hearing participants also heard testimony calling for enactment of Nancy’s Law (S. 2359) sponsored by Senator Fuschillo, which would allow the parents or guardians of developmentally disabled adults access to details of any investigation of abuse or injury their child experiences while in the care of the state.
Nancy’s Law is named after Nancy Bunter a developmentally disabled adult whose parents have been attempting to uncover information about an injury that Nancy sustained while in the care of a state facility. In 2001, shortly after she was transferred to a Long Island cerebral palsy facility from an upstate facility, Nancy’s parents found a piece of plastic imbedded in their daughter’s skin. It was determined that the plastic fragment was from a wheelchair footrest, the same wheelchair that had been used to transport Nancy between the two facilities. Under current Mental Health Law, however, Nancy’s parents are not privy to the circumstances surrounding the accident that left the plastic in Nancy’s skin. Six years after the incident, Nancy’s parents still have little information about how the injury occurred.
William A. Bunter, Nancy’s father testified at the hearing about the number of cases of possible abuse (5,031) that were reported to the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in 2005, saying, "Many of these 5,031 New York State citizens want to know how and why their very vulnerable family members were so terribly treated. They have the same right and need to know why their children or siblings were abused or mistreated that any other family member in any of our state’s community has. But because of the laws of this state, they are denied this information."
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