In what Michael Carey is calling a Walking Tall for Justice Tour, he is pushing public officials to reform policies for reporting abuse of disabled individuals.
Carey will spend the next several weeks touring the state and speaking with officials to promote new legislation. He will also visit centers across the state where incidents of abuse to disabled individuals have occurred.
Carey began his tour at the Justice Center at 161 Delaware Ave. in Delmar on Tuesday, Oct. 13. He will make stops in Rome, Utica, Syracuse, through Western New York, and then travel to Long Island and New York City.
Rather than having reports of abuse reported directly to the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, Carey would have all calls reporting abuse be made to 911.
Carey hopes the added initial response recording obtained from the call would add another layer of evidence. This would also ensure all reports are investigated by first responders, as Carey fears some cases of abuse have been under-reported and under-investigated.
Calls to the Justice Center are already directed via a voice recording to call 911 in the event of an emergency. The center is considered a law enforcement agency by New York State, because it employs investigators to examine suspect cases. The agency is responsible for several state services for the disabled. It handles cases of guardianship and abuse of disabled individuals, and manages care centers throughout the state.
“Every allegation of abuse or neglect that is reported to the Justice Center is fully investigated,” said Diane Ward, director of communications at the Justice Center. The center has “strict procedures in place to ensure the safety of the population it serves,” and “those stating otherwise are misinformed,” said Ward.
Designated mandatory reporters, like teachers and doctors are required by law to report instances abuse to authorities. As such, the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs receives about 7,000 reports of abuse monthly, according to their public records.
Carey has made allegations that the Justice Center has been covering up most deaths of the disabled and takes offense at the fact that the agency is in charge of investigating cases of abuse in its own facilities. “Keeping local medical and police personnel out of the picture ensures that most cases are not properly investigated or documented,” said Carey, of the policy.
“We’re allowing the state to regulate itself. All reports are funneled to state agencies, and of course they would not want to investigate cases of their own wrongdoing,” said Carey. He also alleges that the agency has not investigated all of the reported deaths it should have, pointing to the large number of deaths and instances of abuse that occur in the disabled community.
Joining him on the tour is Bill Liblick, brother of Paula Liblick, who had profound disabilites, and was raped by aides at her state-run facility.
“The state does not care about people with disabilities. They have demonstrated that over and over again,” said Libilick.
Michael Carey’s son Jonathan, who had autism, died in 2004 due to what was ruled as manslaughter in 2007. Aides at the now closed state institution O.D. Heck Capital District Developmental Center in Schenectady were criminally charged for improperly restraining Jonathan, resulting in his strangulation.
Michael and Lisa Carey sued caregivers Edwin Tirado and Nadeem Mall, and received $5 million in a settlement.
The Careys have since created the Jonathan Carey Foundation to advocate for the disabled. Carey succeeded in passing Jonathan’s Law in 2007, requiring guardians of the legally disabled to be notified in the event of an incident involving their loved one. Since then, Michael Carey and his Jonathan Carey Foundation have led multiple efforts advocating for reform in legislation relating to reform in dealing with cases of abuse to the disabled.
For more information on the Walking Tall for Justice tour, visit disabilityrightsproject.org.