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NY Gov Proposes "Justice Center" For Protecting People With Special Needs

Governor Andrew Cuomo today unveiled new legislation to establish the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs and disabilities. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports

The Governor wants to create a new agency: "The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs" - an initiative he believes will transform how the state protects over a million New Yorkers in State operated, certified or licensed facilities and programs. Cuomo's legislation proposes the agency be empowered with authority to monitor state institutions and nonprofits and investigate incidents of alleged abuse.

In a draft report, a special advisor to the governor recommended a common definition of abuse and neglect for children and adults in residential facilities, a single point for reporting and screening abuse allegations, and developing preventive, corrective and disciplinary steps.

Cuomo acknowledged New York Times reports last year that described widespread problems in residential care of some 300,000 people with developmental disabilities. The articles detailed years of frustration by legal advocates getting access to records and some troubling patient deaths and criminal charges against staff. Cuomo wants to get the Justice Center up and running as soon as possible.

Officials say the Justice Center will likely employ about 400 , a combination of existing employees as well as new hires.The Governor promised to work with labor unions, including them in the process to create the new Justice Center. Both PEF and the CSEA issued statements indicating their willingness to participate.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.