Senate Calls For Investigation, Increased Penalties Following Abuse, Death Of Jonathan Carey

Thomas P. Morahan

March 16, 2007

Senatelawmakers 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. SenatorThomas P.Morahan announced he was introducing legislation to increase the penalties for endangering the welfare of disabled persons.

The Senate 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.

"New York State Law does not provide adequate levels of punishment for those who knowingly place incompetent and physically disabled persons into danger," said Senator Thomas Morahan, Chair of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee (R-C, New City). "Many of these vulnerable individuals are unable to protect themselves from harm. As reports of these kinds of situations are surfacing throughout our State, I feel it important to introduce legislation to upgrade the level of punishment for those who knowingly endanger the welfare of the physically disabled or mentally incompetent."

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.