Michael Carey, a a resident of New York State for most of his life, has become one of the most recognized and most persistent advocates for people with disabilities in NY State. He has been the driving force behind numerous legislative reforms and administrative remedies designed to protect this vulnerable population from abuse by those entrusted with their care.
Mr. Carey didn’t volunteer for this role-it was thrust upon him because of the tragic experience he and his family were forced to experience surrounding the care-or lack of care-that was afforded his oldest son Jonathan, a child who was diagnosed at an early age with autism.
Jonathan was a joy for the entire Carey family, but finding the proper educational resources for the challenged little boy was not an easy task. Eventually he was enrolled in the Anderson School, a private school for children with autism located in Dutchess County. Staff at the school abused Jonathan, withholding his meals for behavior management; secluding him in his bedroom for extensive periods of time; and causing him to miss 8 days of school in one month. His room was stripped of all of his books, toys, and pictures, and he was left lying naked on a urine soaked bed.
After Michael removed Jonathan from the school, he contacted the NYS Office of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) and the NY State Commission on Quality of Care, whose stated mission is to serve people with mental disabilities and their families by providing independent oversight of the quality and cost-effectiveness of services provided by all mental hygiene programs in New York State. The Carey’s requested investigations of the abuse and neglect of Jonathan at the Anderson School, now called the Anderson Center for Autism, by both of these State agencies.
After compiling hundreds of pages of documented abuse, the CQC determined that the abuse was “unfounded.”When the Carey family requested the documentary evidenced they were denied by these two agencies that supposedly are empowered to protect the rights of this vulnerable population. Thus began Michael Carey’s transformation from a small businessman into a vocal advocate for people with disabilities.
His first major legislative success was “Jonathan’s Law,” legislation designed to overturn the right of state agencies to withhold incident reports and investigative records from parents and legal guardians. However, it took an unspeakable tragedy to move this proposed bill into law.
In February of 2007 Jonathan Carey was killed by his caregivers from the OD Heck Developmental Center, where he had resided for a year after leaving the private school in Dutchess County. Shortly thereafter, Jonathan’s Law was signed by Governor Spitzer giving parents and legal guardian’s access to investigative records which had been “sealed” and kept from parents and guardians for decades. Despite extensive financial obstacles and significant opposition at times, Michael Carey has had success in getting over a dozen bills passed –all these efforts have been to make New York State’s mental health care system safer for people with disabilities and to move to end discriminatory practices and ensure civil rights for these defenseless populations. In 2007, he founded the Jonathan Carey Foundation to advance these important goals.
Recently, one of Michael Carey’s most striking legislative achievements was to finally make it a felony for caregivers to abuse a disabled person. This law gives people with disabilities the same protection that elderly people and animals have had for years.
For 8 years I have fought for immediate and direct 911 reporting for our disabled State residents when they are victims of crimes of physical or sexual abuse, negligence of care, when they are suspiciously injured and in medical distresses or have died and to date this is still not a reality. This year I solely focused in like a laser beam and was able to get a 911 bill drafted and tragically this bill was not brought to either the Assembly or Senate floor for a vote.
Through Michael’s advocacy work-and his enlistment of the aid of the NY Times in exposing the rampant abuse in the care of the developmentally disabled:
Tragically, New York State’s mental health care system remains extremely dangerous and deadly and most basic safety and abuse prevention measures to actually prevent dozens of the most basic safety and abuse prevention measures to actually ………….tragically have still not been put in place.
Dozens of major changes must still be made to make New York State’s system much safer-and that is precisely why Mr. Carey has helped develop the Disability Rights Project. He believes that tragedies like the death of his son Jonathan can and should be avoided if NY State is forced to properly care for these most challenged and vulnerable youngsters. Michael believes with all his heart that our most vulnerable residents are precious human beings who need and deserve our very best.