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Additional protection for people with intellectual disabilities

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Advocates in Pennsylvania say the State needs to do more to protect adults with intellectual disabilities from abuse and neglect, and lawmakers in Harrisburg are discussing new legislation.


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Legislation pending in Pennsylvania’s legislature proposes added protections from abuse and neglect for people with intellectual disabilities. The Adult Protective Services Law would extend to adults the kinds of state-governed protections that are already in place for children and the elderly.

Douglas Trout of the ARC of Delaware County, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual disabilities says currently there is no agency in charge of protecting these citizens when abuse or neglect occurs in their care facilities:

Trout: If there is there is a suspicion of neglect or abuse, the primary investigator is someone who works for provider agency, which we as an advocacy group think is a serious conflict of interest. Even though there is a suspicion of abuse or neglect investigations of that allegation don’t go very far.

The new law would mandate that an outside agency investigate charges of abuse and neglect. Judie Ferrara’s son Michael was severely injured in an incident at his group home last year. Michael has severe intellectual disabilities. Ferrara was first told Michael fell out of bed, but Michael’s doctor said his injuries could not have been sustained from a fall, but were rather inflicted by blunt trauma to the head, face and neck. The incidence was investigated by the care facility, but no criminal case was filed since Michael couldn’t testify on his own behalf. Ferrara says since there was no criminal case following the incident, the caregivers involved have no record of alleged abuse, and can go on working in the field. She says the new legislation would create a paper trail:

Ferrara: That’s the key, that’s the key piece here. Yes, my son was abused, yes I believe I know who did it. Can I prove it no, not in a court of law – but, if they had adult protective services like they have child protective services and elder protective services my son and the population he lives with would be protected to this day.

Kevin Casey of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare says there is no disagreement among law makers about the importance of this law, but with the current budget crisis, it will be hard for the state to fund the six million dollar project.
Lori McLaughlin of the Devereux Foundation, one of the biggest providers in care for people with intellectual disabilities says her organization supports the legislation, but hopes that care providers will be involved when the details regarding the legislation’s implementation are being worked out.


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