The New York Times Calls State’s Institutions ‘A System in Disarray’

Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old with autism, died in February 2007. He was asphyxiated and slowly crushed to death by a state employee in the back of a van. The employee had a criminal record for selling drugs, had been involved in a previous episode of alleged abuse, and was a ninth-grade dropout who had worked nearly 200 hours without a day off in the past 15 days.

According to court documents, as he crushed Jonathan he said, “I could be a good king or a bad king.”

Many within the disability community are familiar with this story and the ripple effect that concluded in the passage of Jonathan’s Law, the New York statute that, among other things, gives parents and guardians access to child abuse investigation files and medical history records. The New York Times rehashed Jonathan’s death in its Sunday edition as part of an examination into institutional care in New York State.

The man in the back of the van with Jonathan, along with another who sat in the front seat, were employees of the O.D. Heck Developmental Center, one of nine large state-run institutions in New York that house individuals with developmental disabilities. Documented in the article are stories of physical and emotional abuse, employees who brag on Facebook about “beating retards,” and staff members encouraging institutional residents to fight one another.

Since 2005, seven institutions in New York have failed State Health Department inspections due to poor safety and living conditions. One was shut down. Add to that the high cost of institutional care, which in New York is more than any other state at an astounding $1,237 per resident, per day. As noted in the article, “Jonathan Carey did not die for lack of money.”

The full article can be found here.