A bill announced by members of both state legislative houses on Wednesday would require installation and operation of surveillance cameras at all entrances and exits of New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) operated facilities. The measure introduced by Senator David Carlucci (D–Rockland/Orange) and Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther (D, C–Forestburgh) comes after the April 2011 death of Paula Liblick, a resident of an Orange County group home who died from an infection after being raped by an assailant who has not been caught.
The facilities that would be covered under “Paula’s Law” include group homes, residential homes and inpatient facilities. The measure would also require the commissioner of OPWDD to consult with the state police and develop a system for maintaining the recorded images. Ms. Liblick, a 62- year-old severely developmentally disabled woman, was sexually assaulted in December 2009 by someone who gained access to her group home.
She had been a resident of the same group home with the same caregivers for many years. Ms. Liblick who originally had been a Sullivan County resident, was a patient at Letchworth Village.
“Individuals living in or participating in programs at these facilities deserve to be safe,” said Gunther. “They and their families should feel secure that their surroundings are being monitored. There are cameras in the parking lots of malls and grocery stores, so we know that if something happens, law enforcement may be able to find those responsible by reviewing the security tapes. Why wouldn’t we provide the same level of security for people with developmental disabilities in state-operated facilities?”
Carlucci said patients and their families should not have to be concerned about their safety.
“By ensuring that we have a stronger security surveillance apparatus in place, we can protect further people with developmental disabilities while they receive the care they need,” said Carlucci.
Bill Liblick, Paula’s brother has actively been advocating and lobbying for passage of Paula’s Law said, “It is outrageous the State of New York has monies to place surveillance cameras everywhere except when it comes to protecting our most innocent and loving members of society.”
The group home and day program attended by Ms. Liblick did install security cameras after the incident.
Liblick hopes the bill gains passage because of the benefit it will provide to other families of developmentally disabled people.
Liblick added, "What a great legacy Paula Liblick would be leaving knowing that she helped others live a safe and secure life.”
Also on Wednesday, OPWDD announced a new pilot program that will place video recording and global positioning system (GPS) devices in vehicles that are used to transport individuals directly supported by OPWDD. This pilot program is the latest reform announced in an ongoing overhaul of OPWDD that is making the system safer and improving the quality of services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.