Tag Archives: Justice Center for the Protection of people with special needs

New York State Lags on Firing Workers Who Abuse Disabled Patients


In this NY Times article, Mr. Hakim seems to have understood that there is no point in arguing against the mental health system, or OMH/OPWDD. He threw the proverbial towel on them and is now focusing on the unions. The state came with a new law (Justice Center) that is more of the same loopholes to protect everybody but leave us VOICELESS. It’s a SCAM is what it is. The unions are the tip of the iceberg of the culture of abuse in the NYS mental health system.

Let’s be fair: the mentally ill is food for the big and small sharks equally.

Look, in ALL of the mental health system’s rules, old and new, the MANAGEMENT and PROVIDERS are off the hook from responsibility for abuses on the recipients of services. Abuses happen in their watch. Some of them are directly responsible for abuses, and most of them ENABLE the abuses. It’s what I call ‘the culture of abuse in the mental health system’.

Under those conditions, I too would want the union to stand for me if the supervisor, who knows what I do and laughs at it, is going Scot free.

The Justice Center was intended to stop the NY Times ‘complains’ AND to avoid the federal government from doing an investigation on the state’s practices. That explains why the Justice Center is WORSE than what we had before: now people THINK that SOMETHING was done with the issue of abuse when in actuality it’s worse.

Nothing was done. It just made it MORE DIFFICULT for us to report, and it provides MORE protection to the ‘providers’ and workers. There is LESS transparency.  See my comments to the Justice Center law in this blog.

OMH privatization of the mental health system, Cuomo’s surrendering the functions of government to the private sector, THAT’s where the problem is, politically speaking.

A policy system per logic has to put the responsibilities of failure of the policy on those who write and enact them. In this case, the NYS OMH/OPWDD system. Privatizing, reducing the mental health workforce and reducing their salary and benefits is a recipe for disaster. You can’t write ‘moral codes’ (as Justice Center pretends will do)  for those workers you hire  because, them been the lowest of the lowest, you know they are the cheapest.

I think Mr. Hakim should take a closer look at how the system protects the providers and managers. They are the one who must respond for their ENABLING abuses.

 

the Protection and Advocacy redesignation public hearings: our testimony


What follows is the statement I read yesterday at the state’s video-conference  on the proposed re-designation of the P&A system.

Our group were the only ones there speaking up for our community and representing the metro area.

This my  first experience for I have never been to these ‘video-conferences’ given that I’m ‘new’ to doing activism within the mental health system. It was quite an experience.

For one, we were amazed at the third-world level of the system! WOW. I’m sure in Nicaragua there would have been less problems in televising the thing. You could not see the people making the presentations, the audio went on and off…disgraceful. The workers tried the best they could with the equipment they get from yard-sales and the extra slow internet speed we have in the US, as compared to Europe’s.

As for the statements:

Look, our community is AWARE that the government IS part of the problem when it comes to abuses. Consumers from other areas of the state made direct comments about that.

Personally, I got from the conference that consumers don’t have  much hope in that the new P&A system will make a difference in protecting us. GOOD! Now we take the BULL BY THE HORNS.

I’m inviting anyone reading this in our community (consumers) to attend our group’s meeting on Friday April 26 to help us plan a meeting to call for the creation of a coalition to deal exclusively with the problem of physical and psychological abuses of consumers in the NY mental health system.

Please, read the testimony I presented yesterday at the video conference. Comments are more than welcome. There’s Word doc copy at the Our Documents tab.

Testimony of The Citywide Mental Health Project at thePublic Hearing on the proposed redesignation of the New York Protection and Advocacy(P&A) System and Client Assistance Program (CAP) for people with disabilities.

April 9, 2013.

Every 10-15 years, since Willowbrook, a new form of P&A is created as a result of reports about how the state ignores or is part of the culture of abuse of people with all types of disabilities in its system.

Today’s P&A ‘redesignation’, and the new Justice Center, is the continuation in the new millennium of this 10-15 years pattern.

It is the response, not to consumers’ denunciations, but to the Federal ADM of Developmental Disability’ scorching 2011 report based on the NY Times investigation of abuses in the state’s mental health system.

It concluded that the state’s CQCA[Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy]  had failed (to put it mildly) to protect the disabled, that consumers were excluded from its P&A board, and that the commission had violated the DD Act [Developmental Disability Act]. The system was part of the problem, it had to be torn down and rebuild once again.

And yet, these mental health agencies always report that over 90% of consumers rate quality of care as excellent, even people in places where reports of abuses are rampant. That’s because it is taboo to discuss abuses in our system.

As a response to the report, Section 2 of the Protection of people with special needs Act repealed Art 45 CQCAPD. But it designated these same agencies and the JC as official oversight agencies keeping the same licensed and unlicensed rules that give legal cover to abusive providers, and leaving us still mute in the system.

And this notice of redesignation does not acknowledge nor mentions how the new P&A will correct the violations relating to the exclusion of consumers from the board, which led to the redesignation in the first place.

The definition of insanity is doing the same old things and expecting different results.

As long as the system continues to deny us a voice, as long as there is no official mechanism for us to bring from the programs in which we are up to the agencies our reports of quality of services, as long as token consumer councils continue rubber- stamping policies giving the impression that our community consent to them while we are actually been left out, this redesignation and the JC will continue the culture of ignoring our cries for help.

The Citywide Mental Health Project is calling on our peers to form a coalition of consumers to deal exclusively with this issue of abuses, which moved to our community when state’s institutions were forced to close, so that we can be heard loud and clear about the meaningful policies we want to see enacted.

We cannot continue hoping that good willed professionals will change this system, and wait for the next round of 10-15 years pattern of reports about abuses in the NY Times.

Thank you.

Lourdes Cintron

Founder of The Citywide Mental Health Project

(718)561-8415

Email: citywidementalhealthproject@live.com

Address: 480 East 188th St. Apt. 7M

Bronx, NY 10458

Gov. Cuomo’s ‘Intent to redesignate the Protection and Advocacy Systems’ proposal


For those of you interested on this, there’s a copy of the proposal on  ‘Our documents’ tab up there for you to download.

The Citywide Mental Health Project will, hopefully, make a testimony on this proposal on April 9.

Happy readings.  (smile)

The Citywide Mental Health Project’s presentation at the NY City Council hearings on budget cuts to Mental Health services.


Below is the statement I read at the NY City Council. I would say    that the audience had a good response to this, most of them. There were some ‘uuuh’ at the part about the ASPCA, and a lot of laughter (intended) when I mentioned Dr. Evil  at the end.  The purpose of   this presentation was actually to have the providers and their          representatives there  hear us and our message. I think they did.

 Testimony presented by Lourdes Cintron for the Citywide Mental Health Project

At a Public Hearing on Thursday, March 21, 2013

14th Floor Committee Room

Presented to: New York City Council Mental Health Committee

Good afternoon. My name is Lourdes Cintron, the founder of The Citywide Mental Health Project, still a grassroots group of consumers of mental health services and their friends and relatives opening to public discussions the roots of our lack of voice in our mental health system and ideas on how to regain our voices in that system.

We, consumers, are grateful to you for trying to prevent more cuts in funding for programs, and to the highly professional service providers represented by these people here today for their efforts to keep these programs open.

But, after the money is allocated and everybody disperses to focus on the next threat to programs in the agenda, who keeps an eye on how are these funds been used in the programs?

Let’s be realistic: There is no meaningful follow up on accountability and what quality of services that money is buying. The CABs, [Consumer Advisory Board] the tool in place for us to partner with providers at the point of service to design policies that will deliver services effectively and without causing harm to us, are virtually nonexistent.

Unwittingly you continue to fund some providers who shouldn’t be in the business of social work, and your funds pay the salaries of some unprofessional directors and supervisors whom the ASPCA wouldn’t hire to service their dogs.

  • At a time when the mentally ill is been blamed and penalized for the violence and degradation of the social network  that comes with budget cuts
  • when privatization and decentralization of the functions of our government is almost complete (see the governor’ SAGE report),
  • when soon the quality and goals of our mental health services will be directly determined by how much profit they generate to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street in their new investment scheme called ‘pay for success’, in these times our role shouldn’t be limited to be consumers.

 

According to the SAGE report, the State spends 16 BILLIONS in contracts with NFP [not-for-profit] but there are few, and meaningless at that, CABs in those programs and no meaningful grievance procedures.

Instead we are given councils and advisory boards created by OMH and the DOHMH where we are forbidden to talk about the ‘A’ word: abuses.

They decide the agendas and do all the work; we just have to show up. So what happens when they decide to take the resources and change the structures of these boards?

The best illustration of the institutionalized mentality of disrespect and disempowerment of consumers is the so-called NYC “Federation” of Mental Health Consumer Advisory Board. I know because I was there and had to leave immediately to protect what is left of my sanity.

As you all know, the commissioner, without notifying or consulting the consumers who are there to ‘advice’ him, expelled the providers out from the old federation, kept the consumers because – well, you just can’t have a federally mandated consumer board without consumers – removed the resources from the MHC [Mental Health Committee] in the 5 boros [boroughs] and left the consumers with a shell of a ‘council’. He simply left us without a voice in the system.

That’s how OMH and the city have trained consumers to be helpless and disempowered.

In view of all these problems and realities, we are asking you to, as Dr. Evil said in Austin Powers, “throw me a freaking bone here”

We need MEANINGFUL CABs at the point of service, organized by consumers themselves to collect and bring to you our feedback about how the services you are paying for are been delivered.

That’s what the Citywide Mental Health Project is trying to do.

The least you can do for us is to help us organize a Town Hall meeting to listen to what the consumers at the point of service have to say about how they are receiving the services.

Maybe from there we can come up with more creative ideas to protect us other than building a whole bureaucratic structure around one phone call to report abuses.

On OMH’s unlicensed policy


On OMH’s unlicensed policy is in the form of  a Word doc here

Guns and Mental Illness and the “liberal impulses”. [revised]


Yet another interesting article in the NY Times on our favorite topics, guns and mental illness. This one was  written by  JOE NOCERA, appropriately titled ‘Guns and Mental Illness’. See https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/opinion/nocera-guns-and-mental-illness.html?hp&_r=0

I mean, is the best way guns are discussed now a days, as associated to mental illness. Hey, they go together like arroz y habichuelas, rice and beans for you monolinguals out there.

No pun intended with this image. Do you get it?

No pun intended with this image. Do you get it?

I don’t know if  I’m getting over-sensitive about the topic of mental illness or that these journalists are just plain  insensitive. It could be both…nah, they are really way  too detached and insensitive. The case is that the blame-the-mentally-ill-and-lock-’em-up is getting to be nauseating.

The first thing that strikes me about Mr. Nocera’s article is the use of the label “liberal”, a word associated in good ol’ USA with everything…not conservative, let’s say. You know, if you feel that the poor must be left to die at the entrance of the emergency room because they don’t have money or health insurance, you are NOT a liberal, which is a good thing according to the not-liberals. So, Mr. Nocera uses a word that conveys this to America:

Liberals are viewed as against the USA, unpatriotic people.

Liberals are viewed as against the USA, unpatriotic people.

Thus, he pretends to write an ‘impartial’ article  about the topic of mental illness while at the same time using an  emotionally loaded political word, “liberals”, to invalidate the political stands of the advocates for the protection of people with mental illness.

From the outset, the tone of the article is that those who advocate for the mentally ill are wrong because they are liberals. Not only that they are “liberals”, but they suffer from “liberal impulses”:

Ultimately, the article I wrote was about how the “deinstitutionalization movement” of the 1960s and early 1970s — a movement prompted by the same liberal impulses that gave us civil rights and women’s rights — had become a national disgrace.

Is he trying to equate the struggles against oppression to some kind of mental illness?

When he mentioned “a national disgrace”, Mr. Nocera was not referring to “The last disgrace”, the title of Geraldo Rivera’s documentay in 1972 about Willowbrook and the atrocities committed in these institutions. That’s the background for the “deinstitutionalization movement” to which  Mr. Nocera refers, but conveniently he skips that background.

experimentation

He talked about “over medication” in hospitals  as the problem. Sure, sure. “Over-medication” was what those children got when subjected to medical experimentation in the ‘institutions’ for the mentally ill and the ‘retarded’, as they were then called. That topic of torture in States’ psych hospitals is tabu for these journalists. But, that’s the mental health policy they are selling to you, to go back to the houses of horrors.

THE LIBERAL IMPULSES vs THE OTHER IMPULSES

What would he call the racist society of the 60s and 70s? He didn’t talk about the ‘racists impulses’ that caused the Blacks to organize the civil rights movement as a self-defense movement. Nor did he talk about the ‘sexist impulses’ that motivated women to unite against them. I wonder if  Mr. Nocera would consider today’s women’s movement in India against rape-as-tradition   a ‘liberal impulse’, not as a movement for self-defense.

What I want the reader to notice is the consistent and persistent  omission by these ‘impartial’ journalists of the details about  the atrocities committed in those ‘institutions of healing’. No mention that people were involuntarily committed just for being ‘different’ or politically ‘liberal’. Nooo.

Mr. Nocera talks about how throwing the mentally ill out of the ‘institutions’ into the communities was worse than what they were suffering in the hospitals. He neglects to tell you that these ‘liberals’ wanted the services in the community and that it was the States that refused to provide them.

"Liberal impulses" in action. Mr. Nocera says liberals demands  are a disgrace.

“Liberal impulses” in action. Mr. Nocera says liberals demands are a disgrace.

If today you have housing for the mentally ill, less homeless mentally ill, it is thanks to those ‘liberals’. Of course, the ‘liberals’ are losing the battle today against corporate greed and, as a consequence, you  will see the same problems you see when our political leaders suck your money out of the communities and into permanent wars and for Wall Street profit.

‘Bad liberals’ demanding no budget cuts
on mental health services. Go figure.

The pro-institutionalization stance in these articles is so subtle that you find yourself at the end wanting it as a remedy to today’s problems.

With the mentally ill rarely institutionalized for any length of time — on the theory that their lives will be better if they are not confined in a hospital — other institutions have sprung up to take their place.

He is alluding to that article the other day http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/nyregion/new-yorks-mental-health-system-thrashed-by-services-lost-to-storm.html?smid=pl-share about how the situation for the mentally ill have worsen since storm Sandy. Funny that he refers to that article because  it shows that the problems with institutionalization are alive and well:

“I cried when I saw her,” Ms. Rosa said. “I found her in horrible conditions. She was lying in her own feces, she had a fractured leg and the provider could not explain how her leg was fractured.”

Today, as yesterdays, we have reports of abuses in state-run home care institutions, or in those private ones contracted by the state. There’s no way you can claim that locking people up is good practice. Historically, State-run institutions are places for experimentation and abuse. We have a Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs because you can’t protect them not even in the new millennium. The Center was created THIS YEAR as a result of continued abuses for the last 12 years.

Look, whatever you do, DON’T GO BACK TO WILLOWBROOK, DON’T GO BACK TO FORCE INSTITUTIONALIZATION.

It’s all about money. You take the money away and you have to use repression as your ‘best practice’.

And Liberals, beware. They want to label you ‘crazy’ and lobotomize you.

It’s all coming back at gun point, pun intended.

What to do? I will give my suggestion soon.

Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs#6


(f) where applicable, establishing uniform procedures for character and competence reviews of provider agencies initially, and upon renewal of licenses and operating certificates requiring a review of performance records regarding incident management, the role of the board of directors in maintaining oversight over agency performance in this area, and the management of incidents affecting resident safety, including cases of systemic problems.

Ay ay ay! Again??

Many many years ago OMH had a system where they would post in their website info about how many complains against providers have been received and how close they were to lose their licenses. That was when the ‘not licensed’ was not so widespread. Then they stopped this practice because…well, you guess why.

For many many years afterwards, complains were not recorded, period. Now we are back at doing what they really don’t want nor intend to do.

In the first instance, complains from consumers in ‘not licensed’ programs will automatically be left out. Mind you, more than half of all programs are ‘not licensed’. I claim that our ‘public mental health system’ does not exist. If more than half of the programs are not licensed, meaning private, how can we claim to have a ‘public mental health system’?

There are better ways to keep track of complains including letting consumers figure out how to keep track of their complains in the programs.

In the second instance, how do you determine ‘character’ when those affected by that character can’t inform you whether they have been treated with dignity or not?

Have you noticed that this new bill has no provisions for meaningful consumer input?

Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs#5


29 3. (a) when any allegation that could reasonably constitute abuse or 30 neglect is received by the register, the register shall accept and immediately transmit notice of the report orally or electronically to the appropriate state oversight agency and, as appropriate, to the director or operator of that facility or provider agency. (i) upon acceptance of a report of abuse or neglect by the vulnerable persons’ central register, promptly commence an appropriate investigation;

I know it looks as if I were against everything, but that is not the case. It’s difficult for people who have been entangled in the bureaucratic web while trying to resolve problems with it to not recognize the problems that these ‘new solutions’ create. Case in point, the above quote from the BILL 7400.

This new bill eliminated the Commission on Quality of Care because the commission was doing nothing. The commission would receive complains and dismiss them as ‘not reasonably constituting abuse’. By their own account in 2011, out of a bit less than 10k complains, they “screened” only 250. That means that they found the other 9k plus complains to be ‘not reasonably constituting” abuse. Yet, the commission was eliminated because there was abuse and they did nothing meaningful, they even didn’t include the cases denounced by the NY Times because those cases were in ‘not licensed’ programs and not licensed programs were not part of the commission’ surveys.

So now a clerk is going to receive some complains over the phone and make a decision right then and there that the complain “reasonably constitute abuse”. Then “(i) upon acceptance of a report of abuse or neglect by the vulnerable persons’ central register, promptly commence an appropriate investigation;”. That means that if they don’t accept the report, nothing will happen.

Think: do you have any idea of how difficult it has been for LAWYERS to convince JUDGES in civil court that an act constituted abuse? The Justice Center came as a result of the inability of our courts to protect these people. A whole agency (CQCA) was banished for doing a terrible job, but some how A CLERK OVER THE PHONE WILL DO A BETTER JOB AT ASSESSING THAT A REPORT CONSTITUTE ABUSE!. I’m not screaming, I’m just highlighting!

I just don’t see it, how is this bill any better at preventing abuse. I’m waiting to get someone to enlighten me.

Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs#4


30 (d) all records of the proceedings, the deliberations of the justice center medical review board and any testimony given before the board shall not be subject to disclosure under article thirty-one of the civil practice law and rules.

 43 s 556. functions, powers and duties of the board. (a) make a preliminary determination whether the death of a patient or 47 resident in a residential facility within the meaning of subdivision 48 four of section four hundred eighty-eight of the social services law, 49 which has been brought to its attention is unusual or whether such death 50 reasonably appears to have resulted from other than natural causes and51 warrants investigation;

The first quote from the new law tells you that the deliberations of the medical review board are closed to you just like an Inquisition, they are SECRET. The second quote tells you that you have no right to see on what basis their determinations about a death of a person under a provider’s care doesn’t warrant investigation. Well, it doesn’t say so, you just have to put the first quote together with the second to arrive to that logical conclusion. If the deliberations of the board are secret, “not subject to disclosure”, and they decide that a death doesn’t warrant investigation but you think it does, you can’t challenge their determination because you don’t know what it’s based on. Maybe you can challenge but it will be blindly because you don’t know which facts to challenge. And since you have no right to sue because there’s no cause of action allowed nor sue for damages, you are basically out of luck (assuming you are the living person).

So, what is this law achieving in terms of your rights to determine whether a loved one died due to negligence of the provider? Nothing. It only PROTECTS THE PERPETRATORS.

As I continue reading, I will make any corrections on my interpretations based on other facts I find in the many pages.

Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs#3


s 553. powers and duties of the justice center. the justice center shall have the following powers and duties:
(d) consistent with appropriate collective bargaining agreements,
conducting all hearings and other proceedings relating to discipline of employees found to have committed abuse or neglect (for state entities bound by collective bargaining, the disciplinary process established through collective bargaining shall govern);

What this is saying is that, despite all of those hundreds of pages of new law to supposedly prosecute abusive workers, the unions determine how to deal with the perpetrator. It says so clearly: “IT SHALL GOVERN”, collective bargaining rules!

Now, if I were a unionized worker, I would want that in there. Honestly speaking, that’s their right, to protect each other, to have that union protect them. The government is not going to protect them, that’s why workers pay the union, for protection. I have no problem with that.

My problem is that NO ONE WAS REPRESENTING US CONSUMERS, the ones for whom this bureaucracy was being enacted, there. This was all done between politicians and the unions.

That’s why I keep insisting in that the ONLY mechanism mental health consumers have to protect themselves are the CONSUMER ADVISORY BOARDS in each program, if they can make it work for them. That’s what the Citywide Mental Health Project is trying to do: train ourselves to use the CABs for what it was meant to be.

Our power is in our number. The good intentioned lawyers who have represented us in court can’t protect us. We lost almost every case in court for the protection of people been abused, lost in appeals.

Maybe we need our own ‘union’.

Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs#2


More from the 7400 bill

(b) the special prosecutor is empowered to apply for search warrants pursuant to article six hundred ninety of the criminal procedure law, ….however that the failure to give notice of a search warrant application to a district attorney shall not be a ground to suppress the evidence seized in executing the warrant.

That’s too much power. That’s basically a ‘we can enter your home any time we want’. Whatever they find there can be used against YOU. Too much power.


Re: NYS Law 7400 creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs


Those people who, like me, have had the misfortune of  having to represent themselves without a lawyer (pro se) in court, can tell by scanning through the new NYS bill purporting to ‘protect’ the “people with special needs” that it is simply more bureaucracy on top of old bureaucracy. Actually, the new bill makes it MORE DIFFICULT for these “people with special needs” to protect themselves. This NYS senate bill 7400 is basically a bill of rights FOR THE PERPETRATOR.

Again, I’m not a lawyer or anything of the sort, I’m simply expressing my opinions. But don’t take them as correct;  go ahead, read the new law! That’s a challenge, my friends, literally. It’s a challenge because the bill will challenge your ulcers, so to speak.
THE MOTHER OF ALL LOOPHOLES

Loopholes are the bread and butter of those who lobby our politicians. Lobbyists either draft the bills they want for their professional gains and give them to our lawmakers to sign, or lobby to draft loopholes in the bill if it is being created to control them. Well, you tell me if this is not like the mother-of-all-loopholes:

there shall be no monetary liability on the part of, and no cause of action for damages shall arise against, any person on account of participating in good faith and with reasonable care in the communication of information in the possession of such person to an incident management committee, or on account of any recommendation or evaluation regarding the conduct or practices of any agent of a facility or provider agency.

The first loophole is in these words: good faith and reasonable care. Do you have any idea of how DIFFICULT it is for advocates (forget for the pro se!) to prove that a perpetrator, in any situation, but more so in mental health systems, acted NOT with good faith  and such perpetrator was ‘unreasonable’ in his/her professional behavior? The opposite of the legal concepts of good faith and reasonable care are ‘malice‘ and ”negligence‘. Well, good luck in trying to prove that a provider’s actions of ignoring an ongoing abuse in his/her facility was nothing but ‘unreasonable care’.

According to this bill, to convince the judge to accept to take a look at your complain, you first must PROVE to the judge that the provider was reckless and negligent. Otherwise, the case will be thrown out because this law states that you have NO CAUSE OF ACTION against a provider whose ‘errors’ are expected as part of the risks of the profession. In other words, instead of having a case to prove that there was negligence, you must prove that there was negligence to have the case heard in the first place.

The second loophole is in the fact that if the provider ‘misinforms’ the ‘investigating committee’ you have to prove that it was intentional. In other words, this bill tells you that from the outset you have no cause of action for damages, and that it is YOUR duty to prove that the information that should have been in a report but isn’t (or was misleading), was intentionally unreported.

I understand that people should be ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but the problem with this bill is that it TAKES AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO TRY TO PROVE YOUR CASE. You are simply being barred from court. Before this law, you could go and try to prove that there was negligence. Now you have to prove that you have a right to try to prove that you have a case. And the parts about ‘no cause of action for damages’ and ‘no monetary liability’ guarantees that hardly any private lawyer will take your case even if s/he can prove real damages.

Yeap, the new bill is protecting someone who is not you. Guess whom it is protecting?

Re: The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs


Governor Cuomo responded to the numerous allegations of  years  of abuse in many of NYS’ housing for people with mental disabilities with the creation of the Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. As part of his intervention, he eliminated the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy. To me, that is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. Now, no other than our ‘friend’ OMH will be charged with overseeing those responsibilities and more. See below why I think this new policy is doomed to do nothing meaningful for us.

As you know, according to Cuomo’s statement, with the new regulations

a new level of transparency will be created for non-state operated facilities and programs licensed or certified by the State to serve people with disabilities and special needs.”

There’s a big problem right there in that statement that will leave this new initiative useless for most of us from the get-go.

1. NYS Mental Health Act (Art.31.02a) states that “operating certificate required” and that all providers must have an operating certificate. The only exceptions are for those certified by another agency, guaranteeing in that way that all providers will be certified. This Act is what makes our system a public mental health policy system.

2. The purpose of this certifying requirement, among others, is to:
a) guarantee as much as possible that the quality of services for which the government is paying to non-profits is not only adequate, but that no harm will be caused in the delivery of such services. b) that the state (OMH) will have legal access in those facilities where  people have complain about abuses.

3. OMH has engaged in a policy of de-certifying most programs since at least the 1990s. You can see, and count for yourself, how at least half of all programs are not licensed or certified by OMH. See  NYS Consolidated Budget and Claiming Manual, Appendix F – OMH Programs Types, Definitions and Codes.

4. Among those programs uncertified by OMH are precisely those which caused this new batch of revisions to our laws to protect people with disabilities.

5. OMH has a horrible legal record of siding with providers being accused of mistreating and abusing the people they were charged to care for and protect. Two of the most glaring examples are the recent Hirschfel v Teller (2010) and DIA v NY Coalition for Quality Assisted Living, Inc. (decided April 2012).

6. OMH’s contracts with providers enables them to be abusers, or so it seems. See  Certification of Compliance For Contractors of Non-Licensed Programs Exhibit A, where the last paragraph states that :

To the extend that a material issue may exist, OMH has determined that the best  interests of the users of the program will be served by continuing the Agreement  while providing the Contractor with an opportunity to develop and/or implement  a corrective action plan.

Evidently, these “contractors” do not implement any “corrective” actions and every 20 years or so the State has to tear down its system and build a new one in order to correct the ineptitude of some providers. Meanwhile, we suffer in our bodies and minds the corrosive consequences of a job badly done by these providers.

As long as those two conditions exist, OMH’s dismal legal record at protecting us and OMH’s policy of de-certifying providers, there will be no ‘center for justice’ on earth capable of enacting a program of legal protection for people like me.

These are some of the recommendations the Citywide Mental Health Project proposes:

1. If there is going to be a revamp of our legal mechanism to protect people with disabilities, that revamping will come out empty if OMH’s policies are not reviewed too.

2. The State must enforce it’s policy that “operating certificate required”. OMH must re-certify all those programs now out of our public system.

3. The new Center for Justice must include all providers, make it clear that the laws apply to all providers without exceptions. Eliminate the “certified or licensed” requirement.

4. Most meaningful for us, there must be a mechanism for consumers at the point of service, meaning at the program facilities, for us to exercise our right to have a say in program’s policies. This comes as part of McKinney´s and even OMH’s regulations. But OMH refuses to implement this requirement.

5. The mechanism is there: the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB). The Citywide Mental Health Project is focusing on this CAB as our tool to have a say in the programs. We can use it to train ourselves to  provide some of the monitoring and oversight that OMH is not providing,  and devise meaningful grievance procedures. This could even save money to the state.

Consumers need to be more forceful in this discussion. Sitting to wait for the day when the system will stop hurting us is not a good approach.