Jonathan’s Law Signed

Thomas P. Morahan

May 07, 2007

New York State Senator Thomas P. Morahan, Chairman of the NYS Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, today announced that Governor Spitzer had signed "Jonathan’s Law," legislation sponsored by Morahan which will provide parents and guardians with better access to records and reports of incidents and abuse allegations involving their children in residential mental hygiene facilities.

"I am pleased the Governor signed this legislation. As a result, parents and guardians who entrust loved ones to the care of a residential facility will be notified when there is evidence of abuse and/or mistreatment of their children, and given access to any records or reports that pertain to their children with respect to allegations and investigations," said Morahan.

Jonathan’s Law is named in honor of Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old autistic boy who recently died while in the care of a state-run residential facility. Jonathan’s family has long championed this legislation after being refused full access to records and information related to his care and treatment.

Jonathan’s Law makes several important changes to state law. In particular, the new law will:

Require residential hygiene facilities to provide parents and guardians with telephone notification within 24 hours of incidents affecting the health and safety of their children;

Require such facilities to provide parents and guardians with a redacted incident report upon request; Require facility directors to meet with parents and guardians to discuss reported incidents;

Require facility directors to provide parents and guardians with written reports of actions taken in response to the incidents; and

Grant parents and guardians full access to records and documents pertaining to allegations and investigations into patient abuse or mistreatment, with redaction of patient and staff names.

In addition, a Task Force on Mental Hygiene Records will be established to examine existing laws regarding records access concerning individuals receiving care in facilities licensed or operated by the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities (OMRDD). The task force will be comprised of representatives from state agencies, private providers, parents, advocates and others.

The bill will also increase penalties to $1,000 per day or a maximum of $15,000 per violation for facilities licensed by OMRDD that fail to comply with applicable rules and regulations.