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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Righting terrible wrongs"
ALBANY, May 14 -- The center of attention in New York government
this week is best
Keep these words in mind, and read on.
Thankfully it’s not a common occurrence, but inevitably there are times when failings come to light that are disturbing, egregious and sometimes even worse. So when revelations like these do surface, they need to be addressed and repaired immediately.
Put into this category what’s come to light over the past year, following a series of reports by the New York Times and subsequent internal Cuomo administration investigations, involving long simmering allegations of abuse and neglect of the mentally ill, disabled, elderly and other patients with special needs at state-run group homes, hospitals and other facilities.
Beginning last year, the Times undertook an investigation into "widespread allegations of abuse and neglect at facilities overseen by the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.” The Times investigation led the governor to quickly call for an internal review and accompanying report involving six state agencies including the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and the offices of Mental Health, Children and Family Services, and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
This report, “The Measure of a Society: Protection of Vulnerable
Persons in Residential Facilities Against Abuse and Neglect” was
made public last month (it can be found at:
We can commend the swiftness of the Cuomo administration’s response, but we also have to condemn the lack of discipline and oversight that apparently festered in far too many places over far too many years prior to the beginning of this governor’s watch.
Based upon the report’s recommendations, legislation was introduced last week calling for the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs and disabilities.
"This is about safeguarding the civil rights of the more than one million New Yorkers with disabilities and special needs who for too long have not had the protections and justice they deserve,” the governor said. “The [legislation] will give New York State the strongest standards and practices in the country for protecting those who are often the most vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. I urge the Legislature to speedily pass this bill and give people with special needs and disabilities a new level of protection and service in our state."
So this week the spotlight turns to the Legislature, and the Senate’s scheduled to act first. The legislation’s being called the “Protection of People with Special Needs Act.” Among numerous provisions it:
-- creates a new Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs to provide stricter oversight of New York’s system of human services;
-- ensures that allegations of abuse and neglect are promptly and fully investigated, reported and prosecuted; and
-- strengthens the criminal statutes that make abuse of vulnerable or disabled persons a crime.
More than anything else, Senate action this week is going to try to put the words “care of the patient” back where they belong – as priority number one.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869