Senator Farley Reports The Senate Calls For Increased Penalties Following Abuse, Death Of Jonathan Carey

Hugh T. Farley

March 19, 2007

State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C - Schenectady), Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and other state lawmakers today joined with the family of Jonathan Carey to call on the Inspector General to investigate the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) and the Commission on Quality Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQC) following the alleged mistreatment of 13 year old Jonathan Carey at the Anderson School, which led to his transfer to another facility and, ultimately, his tragic death. Legislation was also introduced to increase the penalties for endangering the welfare of disabled persons.

"We place our trust in these facilities to care for our children," said Michael Carey. "It is time for the State Office of Inspector General to look into this and to ensure that our vulnerable children with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities are being adequately cared for, and when they are not, there are consequences for those actions."

The Carey Family has been trying repeatedly to get the State Office of Inspector General to look into whether or not criminal-level complaints of child abuse and neglect in OMRDD facilities are being referred to appropriate authorities by the CQC to prosecute those potential crimes. Currently, CQC determines 95 percent of the time that there is no basis for abuse or neglect in OMRDD Facilities.

The Senate also introduced legislation that would increase the penalty for endangering the welfare of disabled persons to a Class E felony. Currently, that crime is a Class A misdemeanor, lower than the penalties for animal abuse.

"As more and more information about this situation emerges, the need for swift and severe punishment of caregivers who fail in their duties to the vulnerable members of our society becomes increasingly obvious," said Senator Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady). "I am hopeful that a full investigation by the Inspector General will reveal the corrective actions which must be taken by the State agencies involved, while elevation of these types of crimes to felony level will act as a strong deterrent to staff."

The calls for action were based on a public hearing the Senate held last week that examined 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.

Jonathan Carey, an autistic teen who lived at the state-run O.D. Heck Development Center in Niskayuna, recently died while being taken out in a van by two Center staff members who police say used an improper restraint on him. Questions have also been raised over possible mistreatment of Jonathan at a private school for autistic children. His parents were denied access to school records about their son.