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Compliance with "Jonathan's Law"

Emily Burkhard
Updated: November 18, 2019 11:24 PM
Created: November 18, 2019 11:23 PM

ALBANY - An audit conducted by the New York State Comptroller's Office found a state agency that works with the developmentally disabled doesn't always properly notify family members about reported abuse.

The details were released on Monday in the comptroller's audit of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The comptroller’s office was specifically looking at compliance with Jonathan's Law.

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Jonathan's Law was enacted in 2007, after Jonathan Carey died from suspected neglect and abuse in a state run facility. His family had a hard time getting information about his care prior to his death, so they pushed for a law that requires timely notification, hoping to prevent similar situations from happening.

But the comptroller’s report found some OPWDD facilities aren't in compliance with the law.

In the nearly 300 cases audited, 11 percent of families were not notified by OPWDD about reported abuse involving a loved one, though under Jonathan's Law notification is required within 24 hours of the initial reporting.

Seven percent of cases audited didn't have any proof of a required actions report being issued within 10 days, also required under Jonathan’s Law.

In about 20 percent of cases, reports were either not given to family members or legal guardians within the 21 day window or they weren't given at all.

Jonathan's father Michael Carey believes the compliance issues are more widespread than the audit revealed. He said that because the state uses an internal reporting system and he believes many cases aren't followed up on.

Plus he said many families aren't being made aware of their rights.

"There's no oversight, there's no pamphlet being disseminated, they are over-redacting and putting a black marker through the damning information,” Carey said. “You've got basically the state basically trying to hide the vast majority of incidents."

OPWDD issued a statement in response to the audit:

"The safety and security of the people we serve is OPWDD’s highest priority, and we strive to adhere to the guidance provided by Jonathan's Law in informing families and loved ones when significant events occur in our state-operated and voluntary provider-operated facilities. While OPWDD disagrees with the legal interpretation and the findings articulated in the Comptroller’s audit, we are committed to continually improving our already intensive procedures and processes as we did during the completion of this audit, including ensuring our facilities are trained on updated guidance, implementing procedures for quality assurance and timely data input, and performing periodic analysis to identify patterns or areas of concern to further ensure the safety of the people we support.”

Though the comptroller's office doesn't have the power to enforce any changes, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli did issue a recommendation at the end of the report:

"I think it's really incumbent upon the state and the agencies providing services to be sure that they're following the law to the letter,” DiNapoli said. “And if there's any confusion on the staff level as to what's required they need to be sure that their staff is trained and understand it."

DiNapoli said the findings from the OPWDD audit were very similar to those from the New York State Office of Mental Health audit released earlier this year. DiNapoli said his office will likely audit the agencies again to see if any improvements have been made.


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