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Cuomo signs law for new oversight of disabled care

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Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
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On Monday evening, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to create a new state agency he says will better protect about a million New Yorkers with disabilities and special needs under state-funded care. Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has more...

The law will establish a new special prosecutor and inspector general, with more than 400 staff, to oversee six state agencies and their contractors. It will establish a single point for reporting and screening abuse allegations for those in residential care and day programs.

The agency will have a hotline, statewide incident database and a list of employees banned from working with the disabled because of abusive behavior.

Michael Carey, whose autistic son Jonathan died in state care,  cautions the agency will perpetuate abuse and cover-ups because the law doesn't create true independent oversight of the system.  Carey brands the new legislation as "a fraudulent bill".  Carey says he is speaking out because of the massacre in Connecticut - he believes the Governor would chooses bask in the media glow from gun control and Hurricane Sandy rather than responsibly address people with special needs.

The Governor's office did not return calls for comment. Michael Carey believes that New York state profits from putting disabled people in out-of-home care. He recommends reform for the entire system, including mandatory certification for people employed as caregivers,

In a related matter, The New York State Comptroller's office has released another in a series of audits uncovering serious problems and potential for fraud within the state's preschool special education program, especially in funding oversight.

Auditors have found numerous irregularities and instances of contractors who have cheated the system by using taxpayer funds to hire relatives at excessive salaries and to pay for personal expenses such as vacation homes, home entertainment centers and landscaping.

In November. the Education department imposed a moratorium on approving new preschool special education programs or allowing existing ones to expand while it overhauls its vetting process.

School advocacy groups argue the moratorium keeps children from getting the services they need.

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.