State Senator Charles Fuschillo (8th District) announced the State Senate approved Jonathan’s Law legislation today, a measure to ensure that parents and guardians have access to records pertaining to allegations and investigations of mistreatment of children in state residential care facilities. The legislation was introduced after the tragic death in February of 13-year-old Jonathan Carey, an autistic teen who lived at the state-run O.D. Heck Development Center in the Capital District.
Senator Fuschillo said, "Parents have a right to know important information about their children. Unfortunately, children with severe developmental disabilities may not be able to tell a parent if they are being neglected. 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. ‘Jonathan’s Law’ will give parents the information they need to protect their children."
Senator Fuschillo, who is a sponsor of Jonathan’s Law legislation, first became aware of the problems some parents have had gaining information about their children’s care in state facilities through Long Island resident William A. Bunter. Mr. Bunter’s daughter Nancy is a developmentally disabled adult who sustained an injury in an upstate care facility. Under the current Mental Health Law, Nancy’s parents were not able to get information about how the injury occurred. Under Jonathan’s Law, parents and guardians would have access to that information. Testimony from Mr. Bunter at a Senate hearing that examined the issue of parental information about children in state facilities helped to expedite action on this important legislation.
Jonathan’s Law (S.3105-A) does the following:
> ensures that parents or guardians have access to records concerning alleged abuse or investigations of abuse when it concerns their children. Upon written request, records must be released within 21 days of the conclusion of an investigation;
> mandates telephone notification to the parent or guardian of a patient when an incident occurs involving that patient, and upon request, a written incident report must be provided to the parent or guardian;
> directs the Commission on Quality Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQCAPD) to prepare and disseminate a pamphlet on the right to access records relating to patient care and treatment;
> requires the CQCAPD to notify the parents or guardians when there is credible evidence of alleged abuse or mistreatment; and
> establishes a Task Force on Mental Hygiene Records to study and make recommendations on additional legislation regarding access to patient records and reports.
Following the alleged mistreatment of Jonathan Carey at the Anderson School in Staatsburg, New York, where his parents were denied access to records about their son, he was transferred to the state-run O.D. Heck Development Center in Niskayuna. Jonathan died in February while being taken out in a van by two Center staff members who police say used an improper restraint on him. The workers failed to seek medical attention for 90 minutes after the restraint.
Following Jonathan’s death, the State Senate held a public hearing to examine a broad range of issues related to the care of individuals with mental disabilities, including the use of restraints, training in the use of such restraints, and the availability of confidential medical and investigative records to parents and guardians.
The Senate also passed legislation today (S.924) that would establish a bill of rights for children in residential care facilities to ensure that all children will receive appropriate care and treatment, including the right to be free from abuse, to have an individualized treatment plan, to receive safe medication and communication with family members, to recreation, to religious freedom and to an appropriate education.
The bills were sent to the Assembly.
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