harges made by a recent article in the New

York Times alleging systemic abuse in the state
developmental disabilities system are serious
and disturbing. Abuse of clients under any circum-
stance is unacceptable and never to be tolerated.
New York’s developmental disabilities system is
far from perfect and we all want better care, bet-
ter oversight and a better quality of life for the
individuals and everyone else associated with the
system. But looking at anything narrowly will miss
important facts and context. The recent portrait
that has been put forth to the public is not repre-
sentative of the system as a whole. There is a broad-
er perspective that should be considered by anyone
seeking reform.
CSEA represents about 18,000 people who care for
nearly 40,000 individuals with developmental dis-
abilities. Only a tiny a fraction of those employees
have ever been brought up on disciplinary charges
of any nature. In fact, most state developmental
disabilities employees are some of the most caring
and dedicated professionals you will ever meet.
It takes a very special individual to work in this
eld. The jobs are challenging, physically and emo-
tionally. Many of the individuals in care have mul-
tiple disabilities, medical and behavioral issues and
a wide range of special needs. Direct care staff help
severely challenged individuals with the most basic
daily tasks from washing and dressing, to feeding
them, to physical and psychological therapy. They
are not just caretakers, but friends and even family
in the process.
The overall quality of care for most individuals in
the state system should not be doubted. It might
not be appropriate or practical for the general
public to spend signicant time observing the care
in a group home. Still, more rsthand reporting
about group home care and services would provide
the public with much greater appreciation of the
thousands of people who do this work and the
positive way they impact individual lives.
Recognize also that maintaining quality care has
become has become increasingly difcult for staff
in recent years due to cutbacks and short stafng.
The difculty has been compounded as independent
oversight by the Commission on Quality Care has
been undermined by a lack of adequate resources
and authority to do the job effectively.
CSEA is prepared to be part of meaningful change
for better care. CSEA has a long and proven his-
tory in this area. CSEA members were the origi-
nal whistleblowers calling public attention to the
horric abuse at Willowbrook; CSEA worked with
Gov. Hugh Carey’s administration to improve care
in the wake of the Willowbrook consent decrees;
CSEA was instrumental in helping to transform
the developmental disabilities system from institu-
tions to the community during the tenure of Gov.
Mario Cuomo. CSEA
has consistently advo-
cated for adequate re-
sources in recent years
so that corners would
not be cut.
We all want better care for people with develop-
mental disabilities. It starts with recognizing that
the system’s greatest assets are those thousands of
individual employees who go to work and do the
right thing every day. They must not be taken for
granted.
Danny Donohue is president of CSEA—
committed to a better New York for all.
Developmental Disabilities
Workers are Dedicated,
Caring Professionals
By Danny Donohue
C
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