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Jonathan's Law, a New York statute co-sponsored by Harvey Weisenberg signed into law in May 2007, by governor Eliot Spitzer, entitles parents and legal guardians access to all child abuse investigation files and medical history records.
The legislative measure is intended to hold residential mental health facilities accountable by requiring notification of guardians in cases of ill treatment, and requires written reports of ensuing investigations. Jonathan's Law was sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D–Long Beach) and State Sen. Thomas P. Morahan (R–New City); Mike and Lisa Carey, the parents of Jonathan Carey, promoted Jonathan's Law. Jonathan Carey, who had severe autism, was abused and neglected at school and later killed by a direct care worker.
The State of New York's OPWDD prevented the family of Jonathan Carey from accessing records relating to their son, who had been diagnosed with autism. Jonathan attended the private Anderson School in Dutchess County in 2004. The Anderson School specializes in the education of children on the autism spectrum. In 2004 Jonathan was abused and neglected at that school. Being nonverbal, Jonathan was unable to tell his parents what had happened to him. He couldn't process any of the words of what he was feeling at the moment, being as he had severe autism. In 2007 he was killed by a direct care worker.
"Jonathan's Law" is the "popular name" of the amendments to New York Mental Hygiene Law Article 33.
Gives parents and guardians of developmentally-disabled people who live in government facilities access to records concerning abuse allegations. Records must be produced within three weeks after an investigation is closed.
Mandates telephone notification, within 24 hours of an incident, to parents or guardians, followed by a written report within ten days.
Requires facility directors to meet with parents and/or guardians to discuss reported incidents.
Increases fines for noncompliance to $1,000 per day, and up to $15,000 per violation.
OMRDD officials cautioned the New York legislature about passing Jonathan's Law without sufficient consideration, citing privacy concerns, adding that rushing their decision could be detrimental, asserting that whistleblowers will be less likely to come forward if their accusations become public.
Perspective of advocates
According to advocates supporting Jonathan's Law, everyone deserves safety and quality medical care. They have argued that parents of individuals deemed unable to protect themselves must be allowed reasonable access to transparent records, thereby enabling families to ensure quality of care for their loved ones.
- JonathansLaw.org - Jonathan's parents provide latest news stories, public forums, a biography of Jonathan.
- LegislativeGazette.com - 'Hearings focus on pros and cons of Jonathan's Law: Lawmakers seem resolved to pass bill that would allow parents more access to children’s health records', Sari Zeidler, Legislative Gazette (March 12, 2007)
- NationalCenter.org - 'Jonathan's Law', Amy Ridenour, National Center for Public Policy Research
- TroyRecord.com - 'Jump on bandwagon for Jonathan's Law' (editorial), Troy Record (February 27, 2007)
- Access to Mental Hygiene Records in New York State: A Guide for Individuals Receiving Services and Other "Qualified Persons"