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Comptroller Audit: Better Monitoring Needed Of State-Run Mental Health Facilities

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A recent audit from the State Comptroller concluded that New York’s mental health facilities are not properly notifying families of patients about incidents of abuse and neglect.

“Vulnerable patients are at greater risk when their parents and family members are kept in the dark,” said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “Jonathan’s Law can only help prevent tragedies if abuse and mistreatment in mental health facilities is properly reported and actions are taken. State officials must do more to ensure facilities are meeting requirements.”

“Jonathan’s Law” refers to an incident back in February 2007 where Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old non-verbal autistic and developmentally disabled boy, died while in the care of a state facility. His parents had attempted multiple times to obtain information about various unexplained injuries, unauthorized changes in treatment and suspected abuse and neglect.

In May 2007, “Jonathan’s Law” was enacted to expand parents’, spouses’, guardians’, and other qualified persons’ access to records relating to incidents involving family members living in state facilities.

Reportable incidents under Jonathan’s Law involve abuse (physical, sexual or psychological) or neglect, as well as incidents that may result in or have the potential to result in harm to the health, safety or welfare of a patient.

Auditors also found that facilities run by the Office of Mental Health (OMH) didn’t always provide all records to parents and guardians who requested them, and did so late on various occasions. State law requires the OMH to submit their report within 21 days of a request or conclusion of an investigation, as required by law. Only 33 percent of the records reviewed were provided within the required time frame.

Additional findings in the audit:

  • OMH does not use the New York State Incident Management and Reporting System to capture information related to Jonathan’s Law compliance and cannot readily determine whether facility officials are meeting the law’s requirements.
  • Each facility provided different information – with some offering more detail than others – to qualified persons when fulfilling records requests. As a result, qualified persons may not be receiving all pertinent information on incidents affecting the well-being of their family members.

OMH officials disagreed with the audit findings. The office’s response is included in the final report, which can be found online at: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093019/sga-2019-18s22.pdf

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