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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Scandal in New York

New York State's services to people with developmental disabilities have become a major scandal. Danny Hakim writes in The New York Times:

For years, New York State has assured its employees who care for the developmentally disabled that there was a way they could confidentially report any concerns they had about the treatment of those in their care.

And for years the state has been routinely breaking its promise.

The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, the state agency that oversees thousands of group homes, has long employed a small number of ombudsmen around the state who, by law, are instructed to “receive and keep confidential any complaint” from parents, advocates and anyone else, including state employees.

The state advertises to its own employees that they can be assured their reports to ombudsmen are kept confidential. The promises appear in pamphlets, posters and even on refrigerator magnets, like one displayed inside a group home near Albany. A call to one of the ombudsman’s voice mails also promised confidentiality, without exception.

But despite these reassuring messages, agency officials conceded that their internal policy has for years been to encourage ombudsmen to turn over the names of whistle-blower employees to agency officials when they report abuse or neglect. It is the latest example of a system that appears to be set up to discourage and even punish reporting of abuse by state employees.