By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a piece of legislation into law that will make it easier for family members of disabled persons to access records of abuse in state-run facilities.
“Abuse happens,” said Mike Godino, advocacy director at the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “Many facilities are known as ‘barriers without bars.’”
Jonathan’s Law was originally enacted in 2007 in response to an autistic child’s death from unreported and undisclosed abuse at a state-run facility. On Tuesday, Cuomo signed into law a strengthened measure and amendment to Jonathan’s law. The new law allows for records of abuse to be disclosed to family members and guardians of disabled persons. The old law required all such reports to be sent to family members within a reasonable time frame, but prohibited families form sharing information about the reported abuse with doctors, lawyers or similar persons able to assist families in seeking medical and legal redress.
The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Wesinberg, whose disabled adult son was allegedly verbally and physically abused at a Long Island group home. Wesinberg filed a federal lawsuit against AHRC Nassau, a state-regulated private provider of services to persons with disabilities. Wesinberg recently settled the lawsuit.
“When a person is unable to make decisions for themselves, guardians are put in place to make sure that that person is not taken advantage of. If there is abuse happening, the guardian must know. Any abuse that occurs in any facility must be uncovered,” Godino told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“I thank Assemblyman Wesinberg for all of his efforts,” he noted.
“The legislation will strengthen Jonathan’s Law by clarifying how critical information can be shared in order to protect our most vulnerable populations,” Assemblyman David Carlucci said of his co-sponsored bill. “This common-sense reform will bring about much-needed transparency that will provide families a better understanding of the law,” he continued.