State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C - Schenectady) reported the New York State Senate acted today on Jonathan’s Law to ensure that parents and guardians have access to records pertaining to allegations and investigations of abuse of children in 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 Niskayuna.
"There is no excuse for what happened to Jonathan and his family," said Senator Farley. "This legislation provides important notification requirements, mandates access to records, and begins an education process. It is a critical step in the right direction."
"The current mental health care system is unsafe and must be changed immediately," said Michael Carey. "Many of the developmentally disabled cannot speak or defend themselves. The parents and legal guardians are the voice and advocate for their own children. Access to important information regarding their children’s care is crucial for the safety of their children. Jonathan’s Law is about access to these needed records."
Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-8th Senate District) said, "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."
"After personally meeting with the Careys numerous times, seeing the passage of Jonathan’s Law on the immediate horizon gives me great relief," said Senator Neil D. Breslin (D, Delmar). "Parents of disabled children should have the right to access their children’s records in order to protect and care for them in an adequate manner. I believe that this law will help safeguard other families from the tragic heartache the Carey family has had to endure. "
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 school 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 will also act today on legislation (S.924), sponsored by Senator Morahan, 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.
In addition, the Senate is expected to act in the near future on related legislation that would:
> increase the penalties for endangering the welfare of disabled persons, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony (S.3894, Senator Morahan);
> establish an OMRDD and OMH workers’ registry to prevent workers who have abused patients from simply resigning from one position and seeking another position at another facility (S.4474, Senator Morahan); and
> establish a Task Force on Quality Workers care to study and make recommendations on workers in the mental health fields, including qualifications for employment, staffing ratios, the use of overtime, employee retention and training, and protections for whistle blowers (S.4438, Senator Morahan).
The bill was sent on to the Assembly.