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Gunther: proposed laws protect indiviuals with developmental disabilities

June 22, 2011

Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther announced this morning that the Assembly passed a comprehensive package of bills aimed at improving safety measures in New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)-licensed facilities and programs. The Assembly passed the legislative package following a series of four public hearings statewide that examined allegations of abuse in group homes and institutions throughout the state.

“The abuse and neglect of some individuals with developmental disabilities in OPWDD-licensed facilities and programs is appalling,” Gunther said. “There must be stricter penalties for offenders, better training for employees, and safer environments with high-quality care for all individuals with developmental disabilities must be available. This legislative package will help do just that. It will help protect some of our state’s most vulnerable people.”

The statewide hearings documented a number of troubling cases of alleged abuse and neglect and clearly demonstrated the need for comprehensive reform. Bill Liblick, a local columnist and resident of Sullivan County, testified about his 61 year old sister Paula’s rape and eventual death during the hearing in Albany. Gunther has introduced legislation (A7128) which will require cameras at all entrances and exits of these facilities. The bill, named “Paula’s Law,” continues through the legislative process.

The legislation passed as a result of the hearings will create a prior-abuse notification system for employers to prevent potential employees who have a history of abuse from working with vulnerable individuals (A.8330); mandatory immediate reporting of violent crimes (A.8325); and standardized training for the care providers (A.8323).

“Sexual, physical and verbal abuse in these facilities and programs is completely inexcusable,” Gunther said.“Individuals with developmental disabilities are particularly susceptible because many, like Paula Liblick, are non-verbal or have severe cognitive impairments that inhibit them from defending themselves. We must protect them in every way we can.”

The Assembly’s legislative package also includes bills that will:

• ensure that abuse and neglect investigations involving an employee continue whether the employee resigns his or her position or not, and notices of this policy must be provided to all current and new employees of OPWDD providers (A.8324);