Jonathan Carey did not die for lack of money.
New York State and the federal government provided $1.4 million annually per person to care for Jonathan and the other residents of the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, a warren of low-rise concrete and brick buildings near Albany.
Yet on a February afternoon in 2007, Jonathan, a skinny, autistic 13-year-old, was asphyxiated, slowly crushed to death in the back seat of a van by a state employee who had worked nearly 200 hours without a day off over 15 days. The employee, a ninth-grade dropout with a criminal conviction for selling marijuana, had been on duty during at least one previous episode of alleged abuse involving Jonathan.
His death prompted passage of a state law on access to records:
The Times article provides some background:
These institutions spend two and a half times as much money, per resident, as the thousands of smaller group homes that care for far more of the 135,000 developmentally disabled New Yorkers receiving services.
But the institutions are hardly a model: Those who run them have tolerated physical and psychological abuse, knowingly hired unqualified workers, ignored complaints by whistle-blowers and failed to credibly investigate cases of abuse and neglect, according to a review by The New York Times of thousands of state records and court documents, along with interviews of current and former employees.
Since 2005, seven of the institutions have failed inspections by the State Health Department, which oversees the safety and living conditions of the residents. One was shut down altogether this year.
The story is part of a series on the treatment of the developmentally disabled in New York State.