In my last piece, I left off with mostly describing some of the clients involved in the state system that clearly are not what the average person sees on television or the movies.
Yes, those nice, kind and affable disabled people exist. I'm not saying they don't, but they're rarely the kind that generates the majority of abuse cases. Please remember, I said "rarely" and "majority."
Some years back there was an incident where a client died in a bathtub. The cause was technically drowning, but in reality was caused by a serious seizure that resulted in the client inhaling copious amounts of water in seconds.
The client had a long and well documented history of such. There was an employee close by, but by the time she was able to remove the client from the tub it was too late. CPR was done but with an individual seizing like she was, it was ineffective.
An investigation was done, and the employee was deemed to have done nothing wrong, case closed. However, some months later, I think about three, a staff person from Central Office in Albany was visiting the local facility. He was a member of a new group formed to investigate all client deaths. When he heard there was a fairly recent death here, he asked to see the files, and then wanted to "interview" the staff who had been on duty.
He insisted that he would read and question that staff while reading from the written transcript of her original "interview," but that she could not refer back to it. Unfair some three months later, don't you think?
Well, surprise surprise, three months later that staff answered one question, just one, slightly differently than what was on the original transcript. She was charged with neglect and wrongful death, as well as lying during her interrogation.
Now I have to tell you, this lady was one of the nicest people I ever worked with. If you had a child and were forced to place them in a state run facility, you'd have wanted this lady at the top of your list for their caregivers. What was done to this lady over the next few months was horrible, unfair and totally abusive by a staffer trying to justify his job and, in my opinion, trying to show everyone how much smarter he was than the locals.
To make a long story short, I was involved in her winning that case. The main thing that saved her was an argument raised by the local CSEA president at the time of her second "interview." This woman was not guilty of anything.
Why did I bring up this case? I brought this case up to show what will most assuredly happen when those appointed to that $50 million committee, that committee of political hacks and inexperienced individuals who are so removed from the people they'll charge, so removed from the jobs those people do, no allowance will be given for honest mistakes or errors. They are going to justify their paychecks and their jobs. I'll make another prediction, and that is that eventually that agency will grow larger. It's what bureaucrats do they perpetuate themselves for eternity. A case in point, "The Willow Brook Decree"
After the scandal at the Willow Brook Developmental Center in Staten Island, lawsuits and things were filed, and the settlement was the aforementioned decree. It's a long document that assured certain levels of care for those clients, and many of them were moved to other facilities to ease overcrowding at Willow Brook, one of the main causes of the entire scandal, over crowding and understaffing.
Anyway, that decree was to have ended in 1994. Did it? Of course not. Why didn't it? That's an easy answer. It didn't end because there is an entire "industry" of highly paid individuals with good connections who had a vested interest in keeping it going. Each former client of Willow Brook has their own special staff to oversee their care.
Willow Brook clients have guaranteed levels of care above what the state or federal government requires. So, for an example, if a client in a group home is required to have perhaps four "outings" per month, a Willow Brook client might have eight. The bottom line is that any home with a Willow Brook client has a lot more work to do. That decree is costing the state millions of dollars to this day and until the last Willow Brook client dies, and all because of the self-perpetuating nature of bureaucrats and bureaucracies.
I'd predict the same for this new abuse agency, or whatever it'll be called. Innocent people will have their lives unnecessarily ruined by self-serving political hacks with their own axes to grind. And I assure you that the only people to suffer the effects of this new order will be those who take the heat from bad decisions made far above them. None of the people making those decisions will have to deal with the results of their incompetence.
On top of the mess this committee is sure to stir, the clients entering the system are going to make it worse. At this time the system is filling with various adolescents with various degrees of "learning disabilities," a catch-all for behavioral and even criminal issues in many cases. These individuals are street smart, read, write, go to school and are smart enough to use the new attached hotline for reporting abuse every time they don't get their way.
No matter the track record of false claims and past abuses by these individuals, investigations will occur and charges will follow. Why? Quite simply because the publicity generated by The New York Times article is of far more concern to the politicians of this state and the industry around the care for the disabled than the truth. Unrealistic images of clients in the system by office sitters who've never had to deal with the reality of the job will be determining if that job is being done properly.
And just to show you the probability of my predictions, I can cite one home with one client who at one time or another had accused each and every staff in the home of various wrongs, and that required the state to remove those people from the home until investigations were done, and even though each and every one of those accusations were deemed false afterwards, and it continues to this day. That's the rules.
With this new process, those same staff will be suspended without pay, and perhaps fired as the burden of proof seems to be being lowered, and without any consideration to a clients overall capacity and history to lie in the mix. There won't be one person on this $50 million committee that will care. They'll just want notches on their belts to justify their brand new paycheck.
Nobody wants to see abuse. Everyone would like to see those who commit abuse removed from the system. But this expenditure is not going to help end or accomplish either. Much like the millions wasted on other initiatives in New York, the effort to mark shell casings from guns, I predict a very expensive failure, but one with so much emotion attached to it that in all probability that it will never end.
And you wonder why everything in this state costs so much.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org