Audit Reveals Deficiencies At State Developmental Disabilities Office

Leviticus 19:14: “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord.”

A recent audit reveals troubling conditions at state-run facilities for the disabled.

On November 18, 2019, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released the results of an audit of facilities supervised by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The audit found that many such facilities were failing to comply with the provisions of Jonathan’s Law. Passed in 2007, Jonathan’s Law requires OPWDD-supervised facilities to report any “accident or injury that affects the health or safety of a person receiving services” to that person’s parent or guardian within 24 hours. According to the New York Daily News, 11% of the incidents reviewed in the audit “lacked supporting evidence that a notification was made.”

Under Jonathan’s Law, OPWDD-supervised facilities must also furnish records to a disabled person’s parent or guardian within 21 days of being asked to do so. However, the audit indicated that 32% of the time, facilities either failed to respond to requests for records in a timely manner or failed to respond at all.

To be fair, the Daily News also noted that a July 2019 audit found similar deficiencies in compliance with Jonathan’s Law at privately-run facilities for the developmentally disabled.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s findings are sobering. Jonathan’s Law—named after Jonathan Carey, a developmentally disabled 13-year-old who was killed by an employee at a state-run facility—is supposed to ensure that parents and guardians are fully informed of incidents affecting the health and well-being of their developmentally disabled loved ones. Failure to keep parents or guardians informed of such incidents is not just illegal; it is immoral. Given that some developmentally disabled persons are nonverbal and cannot speak for themselves, it is essential that the facilities caring for such persons be honest and transparent with their families about any incidents affecting their health and well-being. In some cases, parental awareness of such incidents may be a matter of life or death. Jonathan’s Law has been on the books for 12 years. After all this time, there is simply no excuse for any facility not to comply with it.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms thanks Comptroller DiNapoli for conducting this important audit and urges OPWDD to do whatever is necessary to ensure compliance with Jonathan’s Law at its facilities.

For more information on Jonathan’s Law, please click here.