NYT: Disability Advocates, Burton Blatt Institute Apply to Run NY's P&A

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS is pleased to see that the Cuomo Administration is asking that Disability Advocates explore ways to take over administration of the state’s Protection and Advocacy function for New Yorkers with disabilities with Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute. Stay tuned for more details about the public hearing and comment period as they are available.


Syracuse University Applies to Run Agency That Polices Abuse of Disabled People

By Danny Hakim  New York Times  October 16, 2012


ALBANY - The Cuomo administration is strongly considering a surprise bid from Syracuse University to run a new federally financed nonprofit agency that will monitor treatment of people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, according to people involved in the process.


The university’s application, however, is being questioned by some disability advocates. Syracuse is proposing to create a nonprofit group under its auspices that would run the oversight agency, a departure for the university, which is largely known for its research and policy expertise in the field. And while the group is supposed to be independent, the university is proposing to allow one-third of its board members “to be elected with input from the governor.”


The only other applicant is Disability Advocates Inc., a nonprofit group that has extensive experience with oversight work as a state contractor charged with advocating for disabled people. The organization has brought litigation against the state over care for people with disabilities.


The Commission on Quality of Care released the applications on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information request.


The administration is exploring a potential collaboration between Syracuse and Disability Advocates.


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo backed legislation this year to create a new state agency, the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, that will police abuse and neglect of vulnerable populations. He is expected to sign that legislation in the coming weeks.


The federal government has pressured New York to also create a nongovernmental oversight group, similar to those found in most other states, because of longstanding lapses in oversight by government officials and widespread problems of abuse, neglect and financial mismanagement among providers of services to people with disabilities.


“We felt that we could bring a fresh perspective and new approach,” said Michael Morris, executive director of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, an interdisciplinary research center focusing on the challenges of people with disabilities.


Mr. Morris said the governance structure of the board “is open to more discussion.”


“We have been asked to engage in conversations with D.A.I.,” he added. “The state does see strengths in both their proposals.”


Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, a trade association for federally financed groups that oversee the care and treatment of disabled people, expressed concern about the Syracuse University bid. But he said his organization would welcome whatever group was selected.


“We don’t want a governor stacking a board,” Mr. Decker said, adding, “You need a really independent, aggressive agency to be a counterpoint to the Justice Center.”


He also expressed concern that Syracuse might not be as aggressive about seeking court intervention as Disability Advocates.


Before any final decision is made, there will be a hearing followed by a public comment period.