Protecting our most vulnerable should be a given in every civilized society, shamefully such has not been the case in New York. We have a long history of neglect and abuse when it comes to the developmentally disabled.
Even further deplorable is how difficult it is to convince lawmakers to approve changes that would safeguard and deter crimes against our most vulnerable.
As many of you know, my 62 year-old sister Paula was brutally raped and assaulted in her group home. The crime was not reported until days later when Paula was brought to the bathroom in her day program and black and blue marks were discovered on her thighs along with blood stains on her diaper.
Last year Paula became deathly ill. It was eventually discovered she had a foreign parasite that is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Paula passed away last April due to even further neglect.
Five employees in her now closed group home were eventually fired. The animal who raped Paula is walking our streets and probably will never be caught.
If there were simple surveillance cameras outside of Paula’s group home, the attack could have been prevented, or at the very least, the rapist’s face would have been captured on camera.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther upon learning of my sister’s rape, and my plea that cameras be installed outside of state run facilities to protect our most vulnerable, introduced legislation mandating such cameras.
State Senator David Carlucci who represents Rockland County immediately sponsored the bill known as “Paula’s Law” in the Senate.
Although “Paula’s Law” has a great deal of bipartisan support, the battle for its passage
has been uphill to say the least. I have spent the last year lobbying every elected state official to support “Paula’s Law.”
Senator John Bonacic has turned down repeated requests to sign on to “Paula’s Law.” He did tell me however if the legislation ever reaches the senate floor he would vote for it. Senator William Larkin from neighboring Orange County is a co- sponsor.
Last Wednesday a press conference was held in Albany to further push for passage of “Paula’s Law.” Although it was emotional and difficult, I knew it had to be done.
At the press conference, I met Michael Carey who has spent years pushing for legislation to protect our most vulnerable. Michael’s son Jonathan was killed in a State run facility by an employee.
Michael introduced me to the Albany Press corps to garner publicity for “Paula’s Law.” We spent a great deal of time with the Daily News, New York Times, and Associated Press. We also met with various elected officials, and Deputy Secretary of Health James Introne.
“Paula’s Law” sits in the Mental Health Committee of the Assembly, where it has the support of Chairman Felix Ortiz. Staff members believe the bill will reach the Assembly floor this session, but it could be stalled by the Ways and Means committee.
Each group home has a budget, and at the very least, monies can be taken from those funds to pay for safety of its residents.
As for privacy concerns, cameras would be placed in public places.
It is outrageous there is money available to place surveillance cameras everywhere except when it comes to protecting our most innocent and loving members of society
I will not give up until “Paula’s Law” becomes a reality. What a great legacy Paula would be leaving knowing that she helped others live a safe and secure life.