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Spitzer signs Jonathan's Law

On a day when many parents were getting their children prepared for the first day of school, Michael and Lisa Carey were taking a drive to New York City on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to watch Gov. Eliot Spitzer formally sign Jonathan's Law into legislation.

The law, named after the Careys' son Jonathan, who died at the age of 13 after being restrained while being transported by workers at the O.D. Heck school, allows parents and guardians of disabled children and adults greater access to records related to their care while in residential private or state-run mental health facilities. The law also gives families until Dec. 31 of this year to retrieve records all the way back to Jan. 1 of 2003.

Up to this point everything was confidential, said Michael Carey. "Now they have to notify parents with 24 hours of any incident if their child has been harmed."

The Careys contend their son Jonathan was physically and emotionally abused when he was under the care of the Anderson School, a not-for-profit center for autistic patients in Staatsburg back in 2004. Now Michael Carey said he is armed with the records that prove his son had food withheld and was endangered while in the care of school workers.

"Child abuse is a crime, endangering the welfare of a child is a crime and many of these people stay in their jobs when these incidents go unreported," Carey said.

Jonathan's Law became two bills that allow access to records related to incidents and allegations involving individuals residing in mental health facilities and, in certain circumstances, records relating to incidents that occurred prior to the laws being passed.

"Jonathan's Law will now provide better and more certain access to information for families like the Careys for ensuring that their loved ones receive appropriate care, and these families owe Michael and Lisa Carey a debt of gratitude for their tireless advocacy," said Spitzer at the signing ceremony.

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