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Gross and deliberate indifference

To the editor:

Gross and deliberate indifference is a legal term for what I believe is transpiring right now in New York state's mental health care system. It basically means gross negligence let the severe problems continue to go on — who really cares? Obviously people with disabilities are not considered valuable enough to protect because Governor Cuomo's budget failed to set aside the proper funding for the most basic of safety and abuse prevention measures that are already in place in state correctional facilities that will dramatically help prevent and stop most of the rampant abuse of the disabled that is occurring right now.

New York state is outright failing to properly provide for and protect people with disabilities; it is a travesty how our most vulnerable are treated. New York state is not providing safe care free from abuse and neglect as required by federal regulation, state documents prove it. There have been close to 35,000 allegations of abuse or serious reportable incidents regarding innocent and extremely vulnerable children and adults with disabilities within the OPWDD system alone since Gov. Cuomo took office.

Section 15009 of U.S. Code - Rights of individuals with developmental disabilities, says that "The Federal Government and the States both have an obligation to ensure that public funds are provided only to institutional programs, residential programs, and other community programs, including educational programs in which individuals with developmental disabilities participate, that –(B) meet minimum standards relating to- (i) provision of care that is free from abuse and neglect, sexual and financial exploitation and violations of legal and human rights.

Yet here are some of the recent horrific numbers of cases and the breakdown of types of abuse of the disabled from January of 2008 through September of 2012 in New York state — please keep in mind that these are innocent and vulnerable children or adults with disabilities being harmed: physical abuse — 17,733; neglect — 18,221; psychological abuse — 14,143; sexual abuse — 6,146; death — 3,162; possible criminal act — 6,854; sensitive situation — 8,235 and there are many more of other types of allegations too.

Instead of protecting our most vulnerable of residents and putting the vitally needed hundreds of millions of dollars specifically designated for safety and abuse prevention in the budget, Cuomo chose to cut the budget for the disabled and instead give rebate checks out of surplus money to families with children making between $40,000 and $300,000. I can see if there really is a surplus after genuinely taking care of our most vulnerable and first making sure that they are safe and free from harm maybe a rebate to families making under $60,000 a year, but not families making up to $300,000 a year at the same time negating the safety of our most vulnerable.

What Cuomo is doing is quite hard to believe and is gross negligence. To cut funding from the disabled when their safety and lives remain endangered in the current extremely dangerous mental health care system is incomprehensible. Releasing rebate checks to people that have no need for those funds is disgraceful. Why would someone making a quarter of a million dollars a year need a $350 dollar check when our disabled are not protected?

Again I believe it is "gross and deliberate indifference" because the rampant abuse still continues now under Cuomo's watch even after it was brought to his attention when he was Attorney General by other whistleblowers and I before he became governor. These massive and severe systemic failures that are genuinely "life and death" matters continue because of Cuomo's actions and inactions.

The governor has failed to sincerely move to take the numerous measures necessary to stop the rampant and preventable abuse from happening. I have brought to the governor's attention dozens of times that New York state law requires that all apparent crimes against a disabled person must be reported to the police and to district attorney's, but most cases never are. The vast majority of cases and crimes committed against the disabled are being covered up. These are ongoing civil rights violations when this specific group of people are not treated valuable enough, worthy enough, or considered equal like any other state resident. I should not have to be fighting year after year for equal rights and equal protections for people with disabilities as a father that has had my precious son Jonathan taken from me when he was killed in state care, when these precious individuals are already promised the same equal rights and protections as everyone else.

Failing to properly fund the vitally needed safety and abuse prevention measures is a gross injustice and what is happening would be deemed "gross and deliberate indifference" in any court of law. Tragically, it appears as if that may be the only way to force Cuomo and New York state to finally do what is right.

Michael Carey, the father of Jonathan Carey who was killed in 2007 by a direct care giver while under state care.
April 01, 2013

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