Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New York State to begin installing security cameras in vehicles used to transport people with developmental disabilities to try to stop abuse

From The NY Daily News:

ALBANY — In a bid to cut down on cases of abuse, the state on Monday will begin monitoring security cameras in public vehicles used to transport people with developmental disabilities, the Daily News has learned.

The cameras, along with Global Positioning Systems, will be installed Monday in state buses, vans and cars used to transport the developmentally disabled in the Albany area. The reform is part of a pilot project that officials hope to expand statewide within a month.

Courtney Burke, commissioner of the state Office of People With Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement the program will make the system safer while individuals are being transported.

And she said it will also help resolve complaints, preserve evidence in cases of abuse and even help clear workers who are falsely accused of abuse.

Burke’s agency and others like it that provide services to vulnerable populations have been hit hard recently by reports of abuse and coverups of wrongdoing.

There are no plans at this point to expand the security camera program to group homes run by the state and private companies.

Travis Proulx, a spokesman for the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities, said the federal government has “very strict restrictions on use of cameras in homes, because that would essentially remove the privacy people are legally entitled to inside their homes.”

Michael Carey — whose 13-year-old autistic son, Jonathan, was smothered to death in 2007 in a transit van as a state care worker tried to restrain him — called the camera program “a tiny, superficial step.”

He is pushing for passage of legislation that would require cameras to be installed in common areas of all group homes for the developmentally disabled, as well as in public and private transport buses, cars and vans.

“There’s an overwhelming strategy on the state’s part that they don’t want the evidence of abuse,” he said of the push for more surveillance cameras.

“They’re more concerned about lawsuits than the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, disabled children and adults they are supposed to care for.”

Putting cameras in state transport vehicles is just one step the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities is taking to crack down on abuse. It will outline its approach in a report expected to be released this week.

As part of its reforms, the agency reduced voluntary overtime by 43% since November, after limits were placed on the number of consecutive hours and days an employee can work, Proulx said.