BILL SUMMARY – S.4736-A/ A.6830 would: 1) require that any actual or alleged incident of abuse or neglect of a person with a disability or special needs in the care of a facility or service provider, must be reported by employees and volunteers of such facility or provider to not only the Justice Center’s Vulnerable Persons Central Register, but to a 911 operator and the county district attorney’s office; 2) raise the penalty for the failure of any employee to make such reports from a misdemeanor to a Class E Felony, and would also subject both employees and volunteers to civil action; and 3) expands the current exceptions to the confidentiality protections for the private records of disabled persons in such cases to include mandatory access by local police and the District Attorney.
WE OPPOSE THE BILL AS IT CURRENTLY STANDS: – As parents and families we are deeply and directly worried about the safety and well-being of our disabled children and loved ones. We understand the motivation behind this legislation and support its objectives. However. we oppose this legislation in its current form, as it is likely to create more harm than it will prevent.
1) The bill is overbroad by requiring all reportable incidents, as defined in law, to be reported to 911 and law enforcement officials. As parents we know, as few do, that the care of the disabled involves managing, day after day, people who have all kinds of physical, emotional, and/or behavioral issues. Accidents and incidents can occur in the normal course of a day, but only some will rise to the level of seriousness necessitating a call to 911. The law currently requires that incidents that occur in the care of defined facility or service provider be investigated by the provider, reported to the Justice Center for investigation, and forwarded to law enforcement where appropriate. We know, statistically and from personal experience that the vast majority of these incidents turn out to be relatively minor, routine, accidental or simply false. To make each of them the subject of an emergency response call and a criminal investigation is an overreaction. It will result in a dangerous waste of critical emergency and law enforcement resources (who are often not trained to deal with the developmentally disabled), the time and energy of vital caregiver staff, and needlessly disturb, upset and inconvenience the disabled individuals themselves. Over time, it may lead to a sense of equivalency or apathy if something really terrible does happen,
2) Caring, capable, compassionate and desperately needed workers are already leaving the profession, and many others are choosing not to enter it. Even the current requirements make it difficult to attract and retain workers, and often result in an over-cautious approach by those now working in the field to the point that it is negatively impacting the care of our children. The threat of brining in law enforcement on low level incidents adds another disincentive.
3) The broad additional exception to privacy protections afforded to the disabled on a wide range of medical, psychological, therapeutic and other personal information will be an unnecessary, invasive, and discriminatory violation of their privacy. These are some of the reasons why NYC FAIR opposes this legislation in its current form. We respectfully request that you vote no on this bill.