By DANNY HAKIM
Published: March 22, 2012
ALBANY — Nearly 300,000 disabled and mentally ill New Yorkers face a “needless risk of harm” because of conflicting regulations, a lack of oversight and even disagreements over what constitutes abuse, according to a draft state report obtained by The New York Times.
In 2010, the number of abuse accusations at large institutions overseen by the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities outnumbered the beds in those facilities — a sign of trouble in buildings where many of the state’s most vulnerable residents are housed, and where the state has repeatedly had trouble with abusive employees and unexplained injuries and deaths among residents, according to the report.
The report was commissioned by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomoin response to a Times investigation last year into problems of abuse, neglect and fraud in state homes and institutions for the developmentally disabled. A draft of the report began circulating in October, but has not yet been released to the public; people frustrated by the delay separately provided to The Times an executive summary and a bound copy drafted in December.
Problems were found at all six state agencies that provide residential service to children and adults with an array of disabilities, mental illnesses or other issues that qualify them to receive specialized care by the state.
According to the report, a regulatory maze has complicated and in some cases constrained the state’s response to claims of abuse. At one agency, the police are summoned if “there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed,” while another agency does so only if a potential felony has been committed. A third agency turns to law enforcement only if a local district attorney has “indicated a prior interest,” the report said.