NYS Must Set Up Protection & Advocacy Services Agency That Will Strongly Protect, Enforce Disability Rights!

NYAPRS Note: The following comes to us from Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, which is the national organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP).


Governor Cuomo has rightly sought to unify and move our Protection & Advocacy services from CQCAPD to a single outside agency that will strenuously work to protect the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities. However, the process has not been inclusive of the disability community’s feedback in assessing how best to do this and around the standard that applicants must meet.


According to the New York Times, negotiations have been underway between Disability Advocates and Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute. Disability Advocates has a long, proven record of fighting to protect and advance the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities (e.g. protecting the community integration based rights of adult and nursing home residents with disabilities and in mandating humane treatment of state prisoners with psychiatric disabilities). BBI has a long record of working to advance the economic status and community participation of people with disabilities... but has no experience in the kinds of litigation that DAI and other P&As have waged that have led to critical advances for our community. BBI’s interest and experience here is apparently more on a public awareness and general policy focus.


NYAPRS has urged the Administration to back a design that puts a group with DAI’s strong record of enforcement at the top of any design for the new P&A. We further agree with ADAPT’s Bruce Darling that this process and ongoing policy work should have  a strong disability community-led focus. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate on this critical issue.


A Missed Opportunity in NY: Disability Rights Enforcement Threatened


After 30 years of a fractured, sometimes ineffective Protection and Advocacy System (P&A) in the state of New York, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a single unified aggressive system that can use its unique legal authority to protect the civil rights people with disabilities of New York.   Although in the current system, many of the subcontractors of the P&A system (run by the Commission on Quality Care - CQC)  have provided exemplary services to the full range of people with disabilities, these services are not coordinated across the states leaving the P&A lacking in the full range of available legal remedies and with an inability to address systemic statewide systemic problems. 


Governor Cuomo is now poised to designate an agency to serve as the comprehensive P&A for the state allowing New York to join the system of  P&A agencies throughout the country that provides legally based consumer run advocacy services to promote rights enforcement, independence and inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life.


However, based on the recent NY Times article, there seems to be a back room deal occurring without input from the very community designated to determine the agencies priorities and who desperately needs these services. According to the Times, after a solicitation period seeking agencies to run the new P&A, two entities remained. Rather than choosing one, the Governor’s office has demanded a “shot gun wedding “ to allow both entities to share the federal funds.


It is time for the disability community to stand up and demand that the Governor choose an entity that has a demonstrated capacity and experience to provide legal services to protect the rights of people with disabilities in NY under the law.  This work is too important for the possibility that precious resources of the P&A are syphoned off for work that can be done without the use of the only federal funds specifically designated for legal advocacy to protect the rights of disability community, non-disability rights related issues and/or for work that does not meet the requirements of the federal authorizing statutes.


The Disability Community must demand from the Governor an independent  aggressive and comprehensive program that is accountable to the disability community... not the political or academic establishment.


Curtis Decker, JD

Executive Director