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There is a bill pending in the state Legislature that would require those mandated to report the abuse or neglect of the disabled to call 911 rather than the Vulnerable Persons Central Registry, which was established and maintained by the Justice Center for the Protection of Persons with Special Needs.
Calling 911 has been ingrained in our conscious since a young age and we, in turn, have told our own children to call those three numbers in the event of a crisis or emergency.
But, the way the current law reads, a mandated reporter — a long list of professions and employees working with or near the disabled and/or children — must call the vulnerable persons central registry. There is nothing preventing that same mandated reporter from calling 911 too, but he or she must call the Justice Center’s registry.
It could be argued that the way things work now is similar to how mandated reporters report child abuse to the statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, better known as the “hotline.” But, when a mandated reporter notifies the hotline, that information is transferred to the local Department of Social Services or the equivalent of such agency in each county and they take appropriate action.
Not so when a disabled person is abused or neglected. Instead, that goes to Vulnerable Persons Central Registry. That is maintained by the Delmar-based Justice Center and they have the power and discretion to conduct their own investigations. A mandated reporter in Buffalo would have to call Delmar. Same goes for Long Island and New York City and Plattsburgh.
The Justice Center, on its website, states a mandated reporter — or anyone — should call 911 in the event of an immediate crisis or if the subject of the call is in immediate danger. But, if the Justice Center does receive the call, and there is no sense of immediacy attached, it may investigate the most serious cases of abuse and neglect without involving local law enforcement.
We are not criticizing Justice Center investigators but those investigations should be left to the local authorities who are in closer proximity to where any incident occurs – like in the same county – and can quickly conduct an investigation and, if need be, collect and secure evidence in a more timely fashion.
The 911 bill currently in the Senate and Assembly committees would make is not perfect by any means. How injuries or signs of neglect are defined, and what would force a phone call to authorities, are much too broad and if passed as written the bill could cause more confusion than is present now.
But, the basic premise is on point – local mandated reporters should call 911 any time there is a question about abuse or neglect.
There are those, like Michael Carey, a tireless advocate for the disabled, who claim it is a Civil Rights issue. We think it is more about common sense. If it were solely a civil rights issue, then every mandated reporter who calls the “hotline” to report child abuse has violated that child’s civil rights?
Of course not.
The child abuse and/or neglect “hotline” has worked well for years. One reason it does is because investigations are handled at the local level rather than a disconnected state agency that has been under near constant fire since it opened its doors in 2013.