March 5, 2014 —
SWAN LAKE, NY — Bill Liblick, a local columnist and media personality who is active in Democratic politics, is once again pushing for the passage of Paula’s Law, now that the state legislature is again in session.
Paula was Liblick’s sister. In a letter to media outlets a couple of weeks ago, Liblick wrote, “My 62-year-old severely and profoundly developmentally disabled sister Paula Liblick is dead today because of New York State neglect and abuse.”
Paula was living in a group home operated by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPDD) in 2009 when she was raped multiple times.
In January 2011, she was hospitalized, suffering from various illnesses including pneumonia, pancreatitis, urinary infections, high fever and shingles. She required four blood transfusions.
Liblick wrote, “A biopsy from a simple colonoscopy that other hospitals did not do revealed Paula had strongyloides, larvae from a parasite usually found in the Caribbean, which entered her body when she was raped.”
Paula died on the day that doctors discovered the parasite. Her rapist was never identified.
Since her death, Bill Liblick has been trying to get lawmakers to pass Paula’s Law, which would require group homes such as the one she lived in, to place cameras outside the entrances and exits so that everyone who entered or left the facility could be identified.
In a phone interview, he said the bill has not been passed because it is tied up in committee. He added, “I’ll tell what they did to my sister’s group home since she was raped and she passed away. They closed the group home, they fired five employees and it went poof, as if it never existed. So that’s how the state reacts.”
He pointed out that cameras are very inexpensive these days, and are in place at gas stations, grocery stores and many other public places. He said that each person in a group home gets a certain allotment from their funding that goes to such things as sofas or TVs, and money for the cameras could come from that funding.
He said, “When it comes to the most vulnerable population, the state of New York looks the other way. Why? Because they don’t vote.”
Sadly, the sexual assaults did not represent the first time Paula was associated with abuse at a state-run facility. She was housed in Letchworth Village in the 1970s, when that institution and the Willowbrook State School became the objects of a campaign of journalist Geraldo Rivera, which revealed the institutions to be centers of abuse and neglect.
Liblick’s campaign for the law has generated some results. The board of the Town of Bethel on February 26 voted to send a letter to state lawmakers to urge passage of Paula’s Law. The resolution read, in part, “When it comes to protecting our most vulnerable and loving members of society, the OPDD have been negligent.”
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has sponsored the bill in the Assembly, and Sen. David Carlucci has sponsored the bill in the Senate. Sen. John Bonacic has supported the bill in committee.