Lawmakers To Pass Justice Center

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The state Legislature today planned to pass a measure to overhaul the state’s system for helping people with disabilities.

The proposal has been a top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid reports of widespread abuse in the state’s group homes for the disabled.

Cuomo and legislative leaders announced Sunday a deal to create a Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. The state serves more than 1 million New Yorkers through various programs and facilities for people with special needs, Cuomo said.

“I think it’s an episode where we’re once again going to show the way on what the best, progressive government does in terms of protecting its vulnerable,” Cuomo said on 1300-AM (WGDJ) in Albany.

Assembly Democrats had some concerns about giving Cuomo too much autonomy in the new center, but the sides reached a deal before Thursday’s last day of session.

The agreement was the most expansive piece of legislation set to pass today as lawmakers voted on hundreds of bills in the final push before the session ends.

Cuomo has said getting the Justice Center approved was his top priority for the end of the legislative session.

Cuomo’s office said there were more than 10,000 allegations of abuse and neglect last year against New Yorkers with special needs and disabilities in state care. The state lacked a standard for tracking and investigating complaints or punishing guilty workers, he said in a news release Sunday.

The justice center, essentially a new state agency, would have a special prosecutor and inspector general to investigate reports of abuse and neglect among the disabled, particularly at the troubled group homes. It would have a hotline to report abuse and a database to oversee workers in six state agencies that provide care to the disabled, Cuomo said.

The state is developing a new code of conduct to guide workers, and it will consolidate background checks of workers at the various agencies as a way to rid the system of workers with poor performance. An advisory council of at least 15 members would be created to help oversee the center.

The new law toughens criminal penalties for endangering the welfare of people with disabilities, boosting the current misdemeanor to a class E felony.

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  1. Simple Simon on

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    HABIBHASAN-An American Storyteller

    HERE!