- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Cuomo administration is fighting an attempt by a legal services group with federal oversight responsibility to obtain complete investigative reports about alleged abuse of the disabled and mentally ill in state care.

The state Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs says it can only disclose completed reports after removing the names of staff accused of abuse or neglect, people who filed the complaints, witnesses and clinical records.

The Cuomo administration, which established the center in 2013 in response to ongoing abuse issues, has asked U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Disability Rights New York. A hearing is scheduled April 16.

Disability Rights is seeking information withheld in four cases. In one, a mentally ill state inmate died. The others involve allegations that a mentally ill person in a state residence was abused by staff; a juvenile in state detention was abused and neglected; and a disabled individual in a state facility was injured by abusive staff.

Disability Rights says in court filings that the center’s failure to comply with its records requests interferes with its federal mandate to protect people with disabilities in New York, investigate abuse allegations and determine whether the Justice Center’s investigations “were fully and independently conducted.”

In response, state lawyers say the federal statutes allow Disability Rights to get records directly from and to enter the facilities that provide the care when the group has permission from the covered individual or that person’s guardian or when it has probable cause to believe there’s been mistreatment.

Otherwise, the group’s access to records of investigative agencies “is restricted to prepared reports of investigations that describe the allegations and steps taken to investigate them,” the state’s lawyers say.

The center, with oversight of six state agencies and their contractors, reported receiving more than 15,000 reports of abuse and neglect last year and substantiating 4,056 of them.

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