NEW YORK, NY (June 18, 2012) Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced its support for the compromise worked out between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on the landmark Protection of People with Special Needs Act.
These changes further strengthen the sweeping legislation that was originally proposed in May by Governor Cuomo, said Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks director of state government affairs. The Governor and Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver, Senator Roy McDonald and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz are to be commended for their willingness to craft a stronger bill. Governor Cuomo is to be praised for the high priority he gave this legislation -- we urge the Legislature to keep close watch over its implementation upon becoming law.
The compromise bill is a substitute version of S.7400 which would consolidate and better coordinate New Yorks investigation and prosecution of acts of neglect and abuse against people with special needs through the creation of a Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. The legislation establishes consistent standards governing the behavior of caregivers along with the mechanisms necessary to provide timely and effective investigation of complaints. It would create a 24/7 hotline, a statewide database to track reports of abuse and neglect, and a statewide register of workers.
We are pleased to see that the various implementation dates proposed in the original bill were consolidated and pushed back to June 30, 2013, Ursitti said. The need to move quickly on abuse and neglect must be balanced by the need to get this right.
Autism Speaks is also pleased to see that adult group homes were brought into the initiative and that the independent oversight group has been strengthened, she said. We are comfortable that the improved coordination of the states investigation and enforcement powers will not diminish the ability of local investigators to also prosecute abuse.
However, Uristti said, Autism Speaks will continue to press for better recruitment and support of human services personnel, elements that that did not make it into the legislation.
Autism Speaks subscribes to a 360-approach in addressing abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable citizens, she said. Removing unqualified individuals from the system must be accompanied by steps to ensure qualified individuals enter the system.