Author Topic: Abuse in Group Homes for the Developmentally Disabled  (Read 4132 times)

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Offline Ursus

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Comments: "At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity" #s 176-20
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2011, 01:02:12 PM »
Comments left for the above article, "At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity" (by Danny Hakim; March 12, 2011; The New York Times), #s 176-200:


176. Paul Hillsdale, NY March 13th, 2011 3:20 pm
    The problem revealed by this excellent article stems from organizational corruption familiar to anyone who has watched HBO's The Wire series. Big organizations virtually always succumb to corruption at the top. Usually not of the criminal sort, but where goals get perverted and the desire of good people to do the right thing gets subordinated to self-preservation instincts and the need to keep things on an even keel.

    If public-employee unions have too much power, that almost always arises because, somewhere along the line, legislatures or those bargaining on behalf of public-sector employers ceded that power to them. These agencies need to be managed, including their labor relations, and this article begs a lot of questions about how these circumstances reached such a sorry state of affairs. If the public doesn't demand better, it has no right to complain because narrow interests pervert the process.

    And, finally, the state is getting exactly what it's paying for. Work being asked of staffs of group facilities is well beyond what "minimum-wage jobs" generally entail. If we value the work being done, and shame on our society if we don't, we should insist that staffs be paid commensurately with the professional performance we have a right to expect.
177. bc new york March 13th, 2011 3:21 pm
    My first job as a teacher was in a school in which the kids lived there. Many were removed from the care of their parents and had very abused pasts. The "staff" that ran the residential aspect of this school were by and large very under equipped to work with people who had the needs to care for those under their charge.

    There were many aspects of this place that irked me. I was glad to have moved on after almost two years upon completion of grad school. Unfortunately, the pay scale for these residential workers was pitiful and, in the end, you get what you pay for. No one with any real credentials or skills will dedicate their lives to a group of people who need constant care, patience, and understanding for 8 dollars an hour. Our state has let these situations fester because it is the cheaper alternative to manage a marginalized and voiceless group.
178. workerbee Florida March 13th, 2011 3:22 pm
    "Decades after New York emptied its warehouses for the disabled, the current network of small group homes operates with scant oversight and few consequences for abusive employees."

    The former "warehouses" were public institutions, government-operated and chronically underfunded. Deinstitutionalization, which sounded good in the media, was actually a move toward privatizing the treatment of the mentally ill. Group homes are the result of privatization, as well as community mental health centers and private practitioners in psychiatry, psychology, social work, substance abuse, and so on. In every case, private sector mental health treatment has two primary purposes: social control, and private profit.
179. Josh Atlanta March 13th, 2011 6:52 pm
    I find it disturbing that these 'care givers' have a union that prevents them from being fired for outrageous abuse. Why is the Union not shouting from the roof tops saying 'we don't want people like this in our union'? So, can you see why there are those that hate unions? They perpetuate poor performance and defend wrong doers....ban Public Employee Unions now!!
180. JH Capital District NY March 13th, 2011 6:52 pm
    Congratulations on outstanding reporting. Please don't drop the story. There has been an egregious failure of leadership and oversight in these agencies and the see, hear and speak no evil mentality must change. State agencies have forgotten their mission and values. They have too often become the safety net for vested interests and not there for those that they are suppose to serve. I applaud the governor for taking immediate action and hope he will insist state agencies adopt many of the techniques he utilized at the AG office in nursing home abuse cases.
181. Laurie C Marina, CA March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I hope everyone who reads this realizes that they, too, could be in the position of living in one of these homes one day. Think about it: we are all just on car accident, just on brain injury away from needing care.

    Disabled people are seen as the "other"; that is, most people put them in a different category than they put themselves in. It is easier to go about your day this way, because it allows you to not care as much; it allows you to put aside the horror.

    But the thing is, disability is a club that has an open membership. Anyone can join at any time. I wish more people would realize this, then maybe people with disabilities wouldn't be so marginalized. I myself became severely disabled at a young age -- I became one of "them" rather quickly. And I suddenly realized that I had pretty much dropped off the face of the earth as far as society was concerned. We live as capitalists, and those who do not "produce" are not given much worth or respect. In this society there are two kinds of people: those who make money (either for themselves or for others), and those who don't. If you're one of the ones who doesn't make money, you best have an advocate who can insist to the world that you are not worthless.

    As a disabled person, everyday I fight against the idea that my life is not worth much, and is in fact a burden. I keep telling myself that a person's worth is not directly connected to a paycheck, that I deserve respect and kindness, and that I still have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else simply because I, too, am human.

    Jane Goodall one observed a chimp son collecting and handing over food to his mother who could no longer move around very much. Taking care of those who cannot care for themselves is a basic part of being a higher-brained creature, not matter what the social Darwinists say. If chimps can do it, why can't we??
182. MAUREEN BLACKMORE Yorktown heights March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I have worked caring for people with disabilities in many capacities for roughly 10 years, first as a volunteer, then as a camp counselor in another state. I ran a "voluntary IRA" (a voluntary IRA is operated by a private not-for-profit company and is funded through the Home and Community Based Services waiver) for six years in Westchester. Currently I supervise recreation programs for people with disabilities in NYC for a different voluntary agency.
    The abuses highlighted in this article are horrible and make me sick to my stomach. That said, these are far from the norm. Most people working in this field are hard working, compassionate, and under appreciated. No one works in this field to get rich.
    The quality of care that the vast majority of individuals get is far better than when there were large state run institutions. The generation of people with disabilities that are transitioning into group home life now have involved families who work with the agency providing the services to ensure that their loved one has an opportunity to live their lives more independently while still maintaining relationships with their loved ones. Many of the agencies that provide this care were started by families that wanted more for their affected loved ones.
    I would like to re-iterate that the abuses brought to light in this article are awful and I hope that the abusers are punished to the full extent of the law. I do fear that the characterization of people who care for individuals with disabilities in this articles will do nothing to curb abuses, but will create more fear and anxiety in the families of individuals with disabilities.
183. sean o madison wi March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    If you think "the government" does a poor job caring for the developmentally disabled now, just wait until the Republicans take it over.

    They will first eliminate the government agency that has been doing the job (to "save the taxpayer money") then they'll arrange a secret, no-bid deal with certain corporations (the ones that donated millions to the GOP) to "buy" the "rights" to provide care.

    Then, to make the task of caring for the disabled cheaper and easier, the Republican-controlled legislature will eliminate all laws & regulations which had previously protected disabled people and ensured an adequate level of care. State employees who had been inspecting group homes will have their jobs eliminated. (To "save the taxpayer money"). Instead of inspections, the corporation will launch a PR campaign (using taxpayer money) describing how well the handicapped are being treated.

    The corporation will then bill the Republican-controlled state budgetary authorities (paying the corporation with taxpayers' money) for supposedly doing the job. In reality, they pocket almost all the money (tax-free of course) and put it in a offshore bank. Because the corporation is a "private enterprise", nobody will be allowed to investigate or audit them.

    Whatever's left over will trickle down on the handicapped.

    Nobody will be able to do anything about the poor level of care because the Republicans will have already passed laws making it illegal to sue or investigate any business with a government contract engaged in "humanitarian work" for profit.
184. Rlanni Princeton, NJ March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    We need to put an end to all this socialist 'caring'. These people are a drain on our economy and future tax cuts for the wealthy. China doesn't do this--and we must be more like to China to compete in the world economy and further enrich our new robber barons. Just look at France, Germany, Canada, Italy, those so-called western industrial enlightened countries, but in reality nothing more than socialist, communist states in disguise. Failures all of them. China is the model that America must adopt if we are restore our pre-1929 capitalist roots.
185. essy Hudson Valley March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Where is the Department of Justice to investigate these civil rights violations? This reeks of Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
186. NYCgal NYC March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I couldn't go beyond the fifth paragraph of this article, it sickened me. Raise employment standards now. No one with less than an RN license (associates degree) should work directly with mentally and/or physically disabled people. Prospective employees should be assessed prior to employment for physical and mental fitness. If someone abuses a patient/resident terminate them, press charges immediately and replace them. There are plenty of nurses out there looking for work.
187. hunkerdown lancaster March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Could you not have waited for a less newsy weekend to release this story??
    We can barely drag ourselves away from the coverage of the earthquake, the survivors and the inevitable radioactive plumes.
    This is a long festering situation, tolerated by people who have no other options, causing multi-generational guilt in many families, and facilitated by greed in the same families who brought us the rapacious bankers.
    It deserves multi-day frontpage coverage all to itself.
188. nurse629 New York City March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    There is no greater crime (or sin), than to harm a defenseless living thing. Our "justice" system make look the other way, but God doesn't.
189. ralphpetrillo New York, ny March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    What is Governor Cuomo prepared to do, or the state should be sued. By the way where are all the of the wealthy legal firms , and why can they not handle pro bono cases on behalf of the victims and against the state.
190. bnc Lowell, MA March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Priests aren't the only "authority figures" who abuse. Just as the Roman Catholic Church is waking up, ANY institutional setting is rife with abuse. Take this testimony from a witness who has lived in foster homes, two orphanages and an elite private school.
191. FRANK NYC March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Let the lawyers loose.
192. Twopondsnorth Way up state March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Providing care to special needs individuals is costly, mentally, physically, psychologically and financially. It is impossible for almost all families to provide such care, yet those with direct care responsibilities are poorly screened, paid and trained. If you want the level of care needed, elevate the jobs, training and pay of caregivers.
193. Chappy america March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    to turn a light on this darkness we have to admit the darkness is human nature.

    Unfortunately, the "good" people who will read this article, because they have never been in a situation of threat of force or worse, will think it impossible to believe THEY would do such wicked things. But then, can I say this? The latest, and well represented in the NYT, evolution social scientists have put the blame on bad behavior on genes or wiring or chemical balance. There is no such thing as wicked in that world. I think that is quite a conundrum, because clearly there is such a thing.
194. Yuri C.Feynberg New York, NY March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    After reading the article I had an urge for a shower. Every other sentence made me cringe. As a CEO of a voluntary agency, providing services to the Intellectually Disabled in the NYS, I feel that the entire field had been tarnished by the atrocities and cover up commited by a few. I firmly beleive, that any organization reflects the style of its leader. If the leader is an inept, oversized and inefficient bureaucracy, impeded by the public workes' union protecting the abusers, you have a Willowbrook re-incarnate.But painting the entire field with a large brush is a misrepresentation of the many small and mid-sized voluntary agencies that run a family-style operation, where each client is treated like a familly member. I personally view the agency I run as an extension of my family. The staff are carefully selected and most of our staff stay with us for many years, despite the fact, that there is no union to protect them. They just do not need any protection, because they love the work they do. Over the 20 year of our agency existence, we never had an allegation of sexual abuse, but any allegation we did have, had been thoroughly investigated. Those allegations that turned out to be valid, had resulted in an immediate termination of a culprit. I think that the light should also be shone on the organizations that carry the tourch of humanity and the excellence in delivey of services to the Developmentally Disabled.
195. Lynne Portland, OR March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I want to give hugs to all the people treated so badly, but a big hug to Gov. Cuomo for caring enough to step in.

    Civilization is sure tattered around the edges...
196. DA-9 New York, NY March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I was a DA when I was 18-22 years old. I quit, despite having a great record, due to sexual harassment by my drug addicted and alcoholic boss. Sometimes I regret it and think of going back. However, I am also afraid to because I am afraid of retaliation due to reporting the sexual harassment from my boss. I think he's still there, and still a supervisor. There are many people who shouldn't be there, but many devoted employees as well, who tried to make a difference in the lives of clients. The job is very hard, but not just because of the population. It's really the budget problems. We were always short staffed and thus subject to mandatory overtime. I made $40,000 ten years ago with great benefits. Some people made $200,000. This was because of the constant mandatory overtime (one reason why I quit). The state could keep you 16 hours and regularly did, if there were staff shortages. I am a 120 lb woman, and was left in charge and alone with eight men as clients, who had a history of violence and sexual assault. The saddest part is that most of the clients I had were borderline, they were quite "high functioning". If they had intervention as children, and were not institutionalized, they would be able to do a simple job and live independently. So obviously there are some people, higher up in the administration, who don't know what they are doing.
    The staff are bad for the most part. Most are working 70 or 80 hours a week trying to take care of their families. Many have disabled relatives and that is why they are in the job. Some people had been severely injured by clients in the past, and others had been infected with hepatitis. Most tried hard to improve the quality of life of the clients.
    Yet some supervisors (not mine- he was a decent man with serious drug problems) and administrators seemed to be attracted to the job because they are sadistic or in other words, nut jobs. My first supervisor, a woman, had severe psychological problems (which she openly admitted). She was truly sadistic, controlling and manipulative to clients and employees alike. She drove one client to the mental hospital, repeatedly, by antagonizing her. This client, who was very high functioning, respected and related to me. The supervisor hated this. I was instructed never to tell her that I liked her, that I was her friend, etc. I was basically instructed to be a jerk to this woman and avoid her as much as possible. Although I got promoted, I voluntarily transfered as soon as I could due to the stress level created by a supervisor. She was also trying to get the assistant supervisor demoted/not promoted, God only knows why because the assistant supervisor did her job very well and was better liked by clients and staff alike. The sadistic supervisor made some comment about how she didn't want the assistant supervisor promoted because "her math skills weren't that good". Actually I had been given another house originally, which was considered a great assignment. However, a few days into the job I was transferred. The job went to someone who was dating the niece of a high level administrator. I was never given a reason for it though.
    I think there is great potential to attract highly skilled, devoted people to this job. The pay and benefits are great. The article is wrong. The starting pay went up, and that's not including the mandatory overtime. Plus, if applicable, the pay in NYC is higher. I had medical, dental, tuition assistance, life and disability insurance, etc. People are desperate for good jobs. The job is also highly rewarding because you can-and do-make a difference in consumer's lives. They show their appreciation, and so do the families that are involved. They grow and change as people, and so do you. I, for example, got my clients on a walking program, balanced the household budget,and greatly increased recreational opportunities. Plus, it's never boring.
    However, the management issues need to be addressed. Then, good people would flock to the job, and stay there.
197. quepiensa arizona March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Thank you for your coverage of these heart-breaking conditions. There may be many reasons for them, but there is NO EXCUSE. Please continue your coverage with the same zeal you have shown toward sex abuse within the Catholic clergy, and PLEASE make strong recommendations for the necessary systemic changes.
198. T.J. new york,n.y. March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I visit my severely mentally disabled family member who lives in a group home very regularly and as far as I can tell it is a safe and decent place for him and the other 10 men and women in it. Of course since he is non-verbal he cannot confirm this himself but on the whole I like the staff (all women naturally!). I do worry though about their complaints regarding working conditions. The chief complaint is that they are forced to do overtime all too often. Frankly how many of us can do such stressful demanding jobs for up to 16 hours a day? I assume additional workers are not being hired because of health care insurance and other costs. As others have said above, the situation cannot improve without more resources going to the care of the vulnerable.
199. trudy NE March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Yet another reason to do away with unions.
200. bjoc Florida March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    Union Protectionism all over the country has become authority over the public weal subverting the legal process.


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Offline Ursus

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Comments: "At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity" #s 201-22
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2011, 12:15:57 AM »
Comments left for the above article, "At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity" (by Danny Hakim; March 12, 2011; The New York Times), #s 201-222:


201. doneill03 Kirkwood NY March 13th, 2011 7:45 pm
    I work in a community residence and well I feel that the article is well researched and written it fails to address the thousand of employees that do this job daily with a big heart and compassion for the individuals that we serve. At the end of the article it talks about management, but fails to research beyond the fire drills. This agency like all others in NY is top heavy to many chiefs and not enough Indians. We work most shifts with min. staff and must provide a level of care that protects are consumers and allows them to be individuals with individual needs and the dignity they deserve. I have worked for 25 years in many different settings also as a local CSEA president and I can say that when management does its job correctly these abuses would never go this far. In my facility when I was president management would bring abuse charges, and usually made them stick because they did there work correctly. I will not say the same today has there are so many employees on administrative leave while being investigated for some real problems while others are out because a consumer said they said they were fat, and the staff was on pass day when it occured. Well the writer did a great job I would say he could find just has much if not more abuse in management, and they make 3 to 4 times what an aide and in most cases are just as uneducated because they got there threw "the good old boys" way.
202. Tara Boston March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    I'm sick, sick to my stomach reading this - especially after reading the first, and most heavily (for good reason) recommended comment. I'm so truly sorry for your experience and I commend you for posting your story to this thread. Your voice will help others like you survive.

    As for the article itself, I cannot for the life of me understand how such abuse takes place so widely across the U.S. without proper attention and accountability; public or private. Unreal. Furthermore, while I understand the importance of unions, they appear to be only blindly defending those criminals for the sake of the union in this case. This is not okay. I'm thankful for the NYTimes and for sound journalism for exposing such wicked and predatory acts against those unable to defend themselves, and I'm so incredibly sorry for all the suffering these poor people had (and sadly continue) to endure for the sake of "mental health." Seems to me the people applying for the "caregiver" roles in these houses are in need of mental attention more so than the patients themselves. Yes, community, awareness and EXPOSURE must increase -people need to know about this!
203. Jen Seattle, WA March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Instead of charging a man raping developmentally delayed women, they *transferred* him? This is starting to sound like the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.
204. Lady Garnerville, New York March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    This article brings to light that budget cuts to the developementally disabled will do nothing more than create "little willowbrooks". If you want to know how the government respects the population of those with disabilities you look to the budget and see what they insure for this fragile group of people.

    The State should not be a provider of services...it could not do so in large institutions and now with the proposed budget cuts from this Governor it is destroying the delivery of services and care for community residences for people with disabilities. Aside from "State" run group homes there are many not for profit agencies providing services for people with disabilities that the State is unable to provide and now these budget cuts will result in understaffing, lack of appropropriate services and again this population will suffer indignities.

    As a parent of a child with profound disabilities, it is frightening to think we are going back in time with the proposed Medicaid budget cuts. People with disabilities have a right to live in the community with appropriate care and enjoy the benefits of being a resident in a community.

    Individuals through no fault of their own live a life dependent on our government for humane treatment. As a parent, yes I advocate every day for my daugther and for others similarly situated and I believe there should be an exception to the Medicaid cuts to insure the safety and well-being of this vulnerable population.

    No one benefitted in a large instituion. Today, people with disabiities are members of loving families and communities. In large instituions families were torn apart, lived apart and never enjoyed the benefits of this great nation.

    This Governor has aspirations beyond New York State, but the New York State Medicaid budget should not be balanced on the backs of the disabled.

    This article has brought attention to the "State" run group homes and as I previously stated the "State" should not be involved in the delivery of care for the developmentally developed individuals. The private not for profit agencies providing care in the group homes are agencies that provide substantial oversight and care but they only can provide these services with the Medicaid funding. Taking away the funding is taking away very needed services and that is not acceptable.
205. Carole L. Sherman Little Rock, AR March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Thank you for shinning a light on public policies for the care and treatment of persons with severe and profound developmental disabilities. My interest is that of mother and co-guardian of a son, aged 42, whose severe brain injuries occurred at birth and who functions on the level of a toddler. John has the medical diagnosis of profound mental retardation and autism. He is mobile, non-verbal and has slight or little awareness of danger. All of his life, he will rely on others to assure his health and safety.

    Our son is a long time resident of a state operated, Medicaid - certified intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation ("ICF/MR"), which annually undergoes licensure reviews and must meet strict federal guidelines in order to receive funding. The ICF/MR program (institutional program) is the best option for John, who cannot report his hurts and needs and who can be frightening if his behavior spirals into a meltdown. We rely on the many watching "eyes" of the caregivers, professional support staff and volunteers to assure his health and safety. We rely also on the knowledge that on a large campus, our son has freedom to walk the center's many paths: he is in the least restrictive setting.

    ICF/MR programs are in the cross-hairs of advocates who embrace a "community-only" ideology. These groups, many of which are funded by the federal government, say our son's rights are violated because he lives in a "segregated" setting; they say (without foundation) that care would be "cheaper" in community programs. Their aggressive actions include bringing federal lawsuits against states for operating ICF/MR programs; lobbying and pressuring policy makers to downsize, consolidate and then eliminate institutional programs.

    The federal government should not use public resources to destroy the choice of institutional programs for the nation's population with profound and severe disabilities - the results have been and are disastrous, as your article shows. President Obama should direct all programs funded under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance & Bill of Rights Act of 2000 and the Civil Rights Division/U.S. Dept. of Justice to cease all activities aimed at the elimination of institutional care. The Congress should not approve financial incentives under the Affordable Health Care Act or any other grant program to entice states to remove vulnerable persons from institutional programs.

    Please continue to write about these complex public policies.

    Carole L. Sherman
    Little Rock, AR
206. J.S. massachusetts March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    As a manager for ten years in one of these homes, I can assure you this is all news to me. Massachusetts is different, I guess. Ours is a warm, caring, loving home. That you can abuse someone and not be let go immediately is outrages and criminal as far as I'm concerned. Rape is rape. Did any of the incompetent police get fired in that case. In Massachusetts, in my company anyway, you would be out the door before you could make up an excuse. There is NO excuse for the staff in this article.
    That said, the trouble is this; the article understated and underplayed the physical challenges staff go through in this field. Not SOME of the people are violent--- just about ALL are, and some extremely violent. For instance: You are sitting watching television and a client suddenly gets up and tosses the television against the wall.-- You ask "how's it going" to another client and you get punched in the face. -- You take a 40 year old client to the store, he doesn't want to leave, he strips off his clothes and starts screaming.-- A client is bored so he takes all the garbage in the house empties it in the middle of the living room and then starts to smash all the furniture.A client wants to go out, you don't move fast enough, he puts both his hands through the window in the living room with glass shattering all over the floor. This is everyday life in one of these homes.
    These people are happy, sweet, wonderful people for the most part. But stuff happens every day that most people would be shocked at. Their parameters of behaviors are WAY different then you can even imagine. You need to care for developmentally developed people with your heart in order to be good at this job. But the pay is ten dollars an hour. I don't know where you got that $29,000 to $64,000 figure.
    By the way, here's a fact for you while you are throwing them around, NINETY percent of our population have been sexually abused by other clients at some time in their lives. This is a different world.
    Also, the guy who complained about the fire drills was a person that doesn't understand his job. Fire drills are always a problem. Some people would have to be picked up and brought out in case of fire. That's a given. A down syndrome person can usually be manipulated to go out in a drill-- cookies, soda, something. It is a bit of a fraud some times but you know what his complaint means---- it means another employee (a one on one) has to be hired to make sure that one client gets out the door a few times a year. It will cost maybe $23,000 dollars plus benefits when, if a fire really happened, you be an awake staff and carry him out. If you want to spend money for a one on one for a million more employees then go ahead.
    The reason families aren't often around? They are afraid. They've been punched, kicked and abused by their developmentally disabled relative since they were children. They have incredible guilt as well. It's too painful. For those who have go back to big institutions,--- you know not what you say.
207. Concerned citizen Albany, NY March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Thank you for this article! Keep up the reporting. Just a few comments on the accuracy of some of the comments. These are STATE OPERATED not privately operated. These are people in the DD system, NOT the OMH system so none of them are homeless. The staff do not make minimum wage. They start at $29,000 per year and get regular step increases and Cost of Living increases. The quickly get to a very good wage. The article says clearly that they make from $29.000 to $63,000 without overtime, their benefits packages are worth 49% of the or salaries. These are NOT minimum wage jobs.

    The problems are many, obviously. Poorly trained managers in how to develop an actionable record against a bad actor, the union protectionists (despicable), the unbelievable ability of OPWDD to turn a blind eye to their own programs' systemic problems, the fact that the state both operates AND provides oversight to itself. These programs should all be operated by reputable NON-PROFITS with the state focused on stern oversight. And let's not forget about a legislature that is so beholding to the unions for re-election that they don't want to pull back the curtain except to peek. Hopefully, there will be robust hearings with no caution about where the chips fall and Governor Cuomo and A.G. Schneiderman will work together to end the stranglehold that the unions have and the mismanagement at all levels of state government.
    Ey
208. Buffalo Bill Western NY March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    I worked for OMRDD for 30+ years and I find this article to be totaslly believable. One of the major issues is that supervisors spend a substantial amount of their time sitting in meetings and talking about "important issues" like smoking policies, mission statements, "continuous improvement" and "best practices" while the direct care workers are left to fend for, and police, themselves. Those who turn in their co-workers are then abused themselves, and the quickly come to understand that the offender is likely to be back working alongside them before they know it. Management blames the Union for their inability to fire someone but the simple fact of the matter is that no one wants to take the time or energy to actually supervise their staff because they are "too busy" with fluff and nonsense. Kudos to the Times for doing their homework since I know for a fact that this agency prides itself on being inaccessible to any sort of independent media and, if they do interact, they spend hours discussing what they will and won't say. Frankly, to paraphrase Senator Kennedy's words from 1965, the management structure of OMRDD is a "snake pit". It badly needs to have the light shined upon it.
209. cherieok Virginia March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Some writers of comments have homed in on unions as if they were the sole cause of these abuses. But similar abuses happen in states with other levels of unionization (or non-unionization, like Virginia). Neither large institutions nor small homes are the single answer. As in every other aspect of life, the same size and shape does not fit everyone.
210. Manny Haverford, PA March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    I have a young daughter who appears to be on a path into some environment where complete care is mandated -- I am working continuously (and after reading this article and comments with renewed fear) to put supports in place that scale in time, money and people. I cannot trust the existing social services, so I am trusting people. Fortunately there are very many good people, and I expect to find more -- I just rarely find them in places where they can do the amount of work needed (e.g., attorney-general, business leaders, ...).

    There are many issues that call out for help, but this population, those that cannot speak or even have the cognitive abilities needed to recognize the problem, needs to be prioritized by everyone.
211. Unforgiving Corinth,NY March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    As a New Yorker I am appalled to think WE will pay a retirement to such a person as mentioned in your article today.The one in Hudson Falls,NY.
    This inhuman does not deserve to collect anything from OUR tax money.
    Maybe he should of been kept in jail forever,thats what he deserves SHAME ON YOU for letting him be free.What a disgrace!!!!Then for him to act so cocky in his remarks makes me sick.
212. Green Man's view Ronkonkoma N.Y. March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Years ago when closing the large institutions was enacted.
    Most people probably aren't aware that female adults were in many instances kept safe after 4p.m. by not allowing anyone into their sleeping quarters without a sign in.
    This was done as many female residents with mental problems especially ones that were attractive were abused even by doctors.
    Why haven't we learned from the past?
213. abc Oregon March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    People educated in human services did not get a college degree to change diapers and scrub toilets. People willing to do those jobs, often do not have what it takes to provide skillful, compassionate support to people with developmental disabilities. (Although there are many wonderful exceptions!) Throwing money at the problem can only do so much - it might even cause bad people to dig in their heels and stay in the field just for the money. We don't have enough of a culture in this country where people feel like caring for someone's basic needs is honorable work. It turns out being an extremely difficult and thankless job, and rather than being seen as a good person for doing it, you might be stigmatized by association with a stigmatized population. It's no wonder that only a certain group - those with extremely strong values or those who couldn't find other work, end up in this job. It's horrible to think - if everyone who should be fired was fired, there wouldn't be enough people left to do the job - this is a dangerous situation. If we as a society want people with disabilities to be treated well - we can't keep thinking we can just hire someone else to do it. We have to start believing that providing really great care is a rewarding life's work. How do we get from here to there? Would you suggest this kind of work to your A student child? If no, why not? Some difficult lines of work are respected in our society - like Firefighters, Military and Police - others are not, and those professions seem to suffer. You might be able to get rid of some of these repeat offenders by cracking down on employees and prosecuting the crimes,(which should definitely be done!) but until you can attract the right people into this profession, you will just have to keep firing and arresting people - who will be left?
214. Patricia Sprofera East Elmhurst, NY March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    Horrifically tragic.
215. RandomGal Mass March 13th, 2011 10:29 pm
    It's true - management gets the unions they deserve. Due to the overwhelming hostility against them, unions develop a counterproductive fight everything all the time attitude. The management model of "locals" with each place of employment having its own union office, usually staffed by people who used to work for the company they are now "bargaining" with, is a recipe for trouble.

    In model that has emerged in Europe, unions are staffed by professionals and cover many companies, allowing for perspective. Employee training and even discipline are often handled by the union, with productivity benchmarks used in salary negotiations. In a case like this, abuse prevention could be something the union would have to agree to and zero tolerance would be required in the contract. If someone were to receive training and be reassigned, the union would be help responsible if a member reoffended.

    Brotherhood goes both ways.
216. Fourthaaron NY March 14th, 2011 12:24 am
    I want to thank Danny Hakim and the New York Times for doing the job of real journalists. This is investigative journalism at its best. You have brought sunlight in which is the best disinfectant.
    Already Governor Cuomo has fired the heads of the branch responsible to keep this problem in the
    public eye and to stamp out abuses. Mr. Hakim exposed the ways the workers and agencies were trying to
    cover their tracks and to retaliate against a conscientious aide. Law enforcement needs to be brought in to
    do proper evaluations of abuse complaints. As stated above, the community should be more involved and independent advocates appointed. Thank you Danny Hakim. Please keep it up!
217. soshaljustic Honolulu,HI March 14th, 2011 12:25 am
    I live in a group home because of epilepsy! Graduated last May with 3 degrees after having brain surgery 8 years ago, yet still seizure. I am due to start my Masters in Fall. I am vice chair of my neighborhood board for the past 3 years. I have witnessed abuse and have been abused myself, most recently especially. I am reading this article while having planned to go to my State legislator tomorrow with a complaint against the home and State licensed owners! I have assisted these owners but I will not accept their abuse and harassment, nor the other clients in the house. If the owners fail to do their jobs I will make sure the State does it's job in forming an oversight board or commission for these homes in the State of Hawaii! If not, I go the Feds with a federal case for assistance!
218. Middlevillager Florida March 14th, 2011 12:25 am
    This is the most frightening article I've read, ever! We are all at risk to have this happen if we do not have an plan or family or money and become mentally or physically ill. We cannot expect the 'State' to help us. Some of us cannot even except family members to help either. I applaud the NY governor for looking into this horific situation.
219. Marsha Keeffer Santa Cruz, California March 14th, 2011 12:25 am
    As a California-licensed private fiduciary, I'm glad to see this coming to light. It's a dreadful situation. The same problems exist regarding care of the elderly, mentally ill and children. In all cases, abuse - whether verbal, physical, emotional, mental or other - should be responded to with vigorous prosecution by the district attorney. This is not a civil issue - it is criminal.

    Solutions include 1.) Increase worker qualifications, 2.) Combine community facilities into EU-type mid-sized 'dorms' where people with similar needs can receive better and varied programs, 3.) Establish supervision methods that work, including performance plans for every employee, 4.) Create a state administrator who oversees all programs and reports directly to the governor.

    Thank you to the journalists and editors of the New York Times - this story is a tremendous public service.
220. abilenejohn Abilene, TX March 14th, 2011 12:25 am
    From the lead, I was waiting for a statement like this:

    "The state initiated termination proceedings in 129 of the cases reviewed but succeeded in just 30 of them, in large part because the workers' union, the Civil Service Employees Association, aggressively resisted firings in almost every case. A few employees resigned, even though the state sought only suspensions."

    This is why people have stop believing in unions.
221. DJS New York March 14th, 2011 12:26 am
    This piece made me ill. I could not read the entire article. My heart goes out to the victims of the abuse. There is plenty of guilt to go around. The vulnerable victims have been failed by many. Charges should be brought against the former head of the agency, not just a slap on the wrist. Transferring abusers reminds me all too well of the transfer of abusers in the Catholic Church.
    Does anyone of these people ever stop and think "this could be MY child, my brother, my sister, my mother, my cousin- ME ??!

    Apparently not.
    It is time to get rid of unions, pure and simple.They have outlived their usefulness and have become nothing more than expensive burdens and far worse in terms of protecting clear predators.

    The next place that the Times should shed its investigative journalistic light on should be the short term psychiatric units in hospitals,including prominent ones in the New York area . I know for a fact that staff abuse of vulnerable patients is going on there.
222. red ny March 14th, 2011 12:26 am
    I worked with individuals with developmental disability in Canada and now in the state of NY. After reading the article, there's a lot of disturbing issues mentioned that needs to be addressed. One issue that troubles me most are the union's defense of staff who are repeat offenders. It is unacceptable that a staff who was known to have abused an individual with developmental disability was allowed to remain in the job. The reasoning "It is our job" doesn't make sense. How can they go on with their life knowing that the person they defended to remain in job can and had repeatedly abused individuals with developmental disability? How would they feel if the individual with developmental disability is their son/daughter?


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