NYAPRS Note: States are federally mandated to establish State Protection and Advocacy Agencies Systems to oversee the following functions:
- the protection and advocacy of legal and human rights
- information and referral
- investigation of complaints of violation of rights of individuals with disabilities
- working to resolve complaints through mediation, alternative dispute resolution and litigation
In New York, P&A functions have been overseen by the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for People with Disabilities (CQCAPD), which “administers the eight federal programs which provide legal and other advocacy services to persons with disabilities to assist them in obtaining the services and protections of federal and state laws,” including:
- P&A for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD)
- P&A for Voting Access (PAVA)
- P&A for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)
- P&A for Individual Rights (PAIR)
- P&A for Assistive Technology (PAAT)
- P&A for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)
- P&A for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)
- Client Assistance Program
CQCAPD has historically overseen P&A functions through 44 contracts with 20 legal groups.
CQCAPD is a state agency that has answered to NYS Governors and has increasingly questioned for its capacity to function independently enough in its oversight of state agencies that serve people with disabilities.
Most recently, a federal audit by the federal Health and Human Services Administration (http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/282748-federal-report-on-disabled-care-in-ny.html#document/p1) found CQCAPD “out of compliance…with several requirements of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act), raising significant questions about the authority and independence of this P&A.”
Accordingly, the Cuomo Administration and CQCQPD have called for several regional hearings in the next few weeks to get public input about how NYS P&A functions currently operate and whether they might be better operated by a nonprofit entity. See yesterday’s e-news for more details at http://www.nyaprs.org/e-news-bulletins/2012/2012-01-10-CQC.cfm.
The Times article below provides more background on the recent federal findings.
U.S. Report Criticizes New York on Monitoring Care of Developmentally Disabled
By Danny Hakim New York Times January 10, 2012
ALBANY — The federal government sharply criticized New York’s oversight of the developmentally disabled in a new report, saying the state agency charged with oversight lacks independence from the governor’s office, failed to account for how it is spending public money and has broken several requirements of federal law.
The report from the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, which The New York Times obtained on Tuesday, raised questions about whether the Cuomo administration has gone far enough in its efforts to reform the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities.
The commission, which is supposed to be a watchdog over much larger state agencies that care for the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill, has been sharply criticized as not fulfilling its mission.
According to the report, the commission’s very structure worked against its oversight role. Among other things, both the commission and the agencies it is supposed to oversee, including the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, report to the governor’s office. In most other states, similar watchdog groups are set up as independent nonprofit organizations.
The report noted that the commission’s chief cannot even make independent hiring decisions. The report also cites the commission for inadequate policies regarding the handling of confidential records and for not seeking sufficient information from families of the disabled. It says the commission failed to turn over documents detailing how federal money was being spent in the agency, as required by law. And it found that there was “no evidence of data-driven strategic planning to establish goals” in the agency.
The report was prompted by a series of articles in The Times last year that examined problems of abuse, neglect and financial mismanagement in the state’s system of caring for developmentally disabled people.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has undertaken a reform effort over the last nine months intended to address decades of mismanagement in the state’s care of the developmentally disabled. But the report suggests it has much work ahead, including a potential reorganization of the commission.
The inspection of the agency took place in July, four months after the Cuomo administration installed Roger Bearden, former director of the Disability Law Center at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, to head the commission.
The federal government, which provides billions of dollars in Medicaid money to New York, has given the Cuomo administration until Friday to respond to the report, and the administration has already circulated to stakeholders plans for public hearings on the future of the Commission on Quality of Care.
Sharon B. Lewis, commissioner of the federal Administration on Developmental Disabilities, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, which drafted the report, said in a statement she was “confident that the state is taking appropriate action to address the concerns.” In an interview, she said she was pleased that state officials had said they would examine whether the commission should become a nonprofit agency.
In his own statement, Mr. Bearden said the Commission on Quality of Care had already been undertaking reform efforts, adding that the federal report gave “additional valuable guidance on how to make the federal programs currently administered by C.Q.C. more effective in serving New Yorkers with disabilities.”
Mr. Cuomo’s office had no comment on the report.
Michael Carey, an advocate for the developmentally disabled whose autistic son died in state care, has met with Mr. Bearden. He said he was frustrated that the commission had not become more independent.
“This agency has been an absolute failure,” Mr. Carey said. “The agency is not independent, it is not a strong watchdog agency, it is not investigating abuse and neglect or deaths properly.”
He also noted that a commission charged with rooting out financial fraud at nonprofit groups was itself cited in the federal report for failing to turn over financial documentation.
The Times has outlined numerous problems at the Commission on Quality of Care. For example, 10 percent of deaths of the developmentally disabled in state care reported to the commission were listed in its database as occurring from unknown causes, suggesting widespread failures in the state’s diligence in finding out why people died.
One in six deaths in state and privately run homes, or more than 1,200 in the past decade, have been attributed to either unnatural or unknown causes, according to data obtained by The Times. The agency has also been plagued by minimal disclosure in the past. Mr. Bearden’s predecessor, Jane G. Lynch, never spoke to a reporter during her nearly three-year tenure, her staff members said.