Friday, August 11, 2006

My Testimony

As a human being, the list of aversive behavioral therapies that NY state has prohibited makes my skin crawl because they are so abusive. I am proud that my state has a committed to being more humane toward all of our citizens. Prohibiting these actions was the right thing to do and it is very upsetting that the Board of Regents is now developing plans to allow exceptions to these prohibitions.

As a parent of a child with a disability I am by turns infuriated and terrified that any of these horrifying acts could happen to my child in the name of therapy--with my state's permission.

As an RN and citizen of the state I am also wondering about the regulatory inconsistencies allowing these exceptions creates in our state:
  • The NYS Health Department has very strict rules about treatment of people who live in the state's nursing homes. Any of the 'aversive behavioral therapies' listed in the new regulations would qualify as abuse in a nursing home and would lead to prosecution, fines, jail time, and loss of licensure for individuals and even institutions.
  • The NYS Commission of Quality Care has similar, strict rules on behalf of adults with disabilities who live in the state's many homes and group homes.
  • The NYS Mental Health Office enforces the same standards to protect people in the state who have mental illness.
  • Adult Protective and Child Protective Services would prosecute caregivers or parents who engaged in any of these aversive/abusive activities in the home resulting in jail time and loss of custody.
  • In fact all nurses, doctors, social workers, police, teachers, school personnel, and others who hold professional licenses in NYS are "mandated reporters" trained and required by law to recognize and report signs of child abuse. All of the "therapies" that appear in the board of regents prohibited list also appear in the list of activities licensed professionals are required to report.
  • People in prison who have been convicted of crimes are also protected from these aversive strategies by regulations in NYS.
  • Even animals in NYS are protected by law from the 'behavioral interventions' listed in this regulation.

Allowing exceptions to these necessary prohibitions only for children with disabilities puts these vulnerable people on the bottom of the value totem-pole in our state. It might even be said that these exceptions--making children with disabilities the only legal recipients in the state of these reprehensible behaviors--creates a hostile environment for children with disabilities in our state.

The fact that the effectiveness of these "therapies" is not supported by research supports the idea that exceptions to these prohibitions is nothing more than legitimizing cruelty.

NYS should set a standard for the treatment of its citizens that precludes cruelty and abuse for all, without exception.

Where there are problem behaviors we need to commit our resources, time and energy into finding or creating solutions that do not resort to tactics that would be construed as torture under any other circumstance.

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