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Cuomo: State gov changes will save money, protect most vulnerable

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Governor Andrew Cuomo and his top aides announced a number of changes that they say will save money, and also help protect what Cuomo says are "the most vulnerable" people the state takes care of: the developmentally disabled living in group homes and other state facilities.

In Albany, Karen DeWitt has the story:

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Office of General Services Commissioner Ro Ann Destito  told a meeting of the governor’s cabinet that New York is wasting the “taxpayer’s money” by allowing fully one quarter of  state owned office space to remain vacant. She announced a major consolidation of agency workspaces that could include ending some leases in privately owned buildings in Albany, the Hudson Valley and New York City.

She says agencies will also merge call centers, and reform procurement practices. For the first time, she says road salt will be competitively bid and purchased in bulk for state and local governments.

“We spend too much on things the government needs because we don’t spend smartly,” Destito said.

Clarence Sundram, a former top aide to Governors Carey and Mario Cuomo, who was a central figure in reforming the notorious Willowbrook State school for developmentally disabled children, is now Cuomo’s Special Advisor on Vulnerable Persons.    

Sundram says he found there is no “consistent policy”  among group homes for adults with developmental disabilities,  and facilities for children, for reporting abuse and neglect.  He says in some cases, it’s not even required.

“We have 650 kids who are going to these schools,” said Sundram, at a cost of $140 million dollars a year. “And we know virtually nothing about what goes on with them.”

Governor Cuomo says some of the findings were “startling, and obviously troubling.”

An investigation by The New York Times, published earlier this year, drew attention to problems in more than 2,000 state run homes, finding that employees who sexually  abused, beat or verbally assaulted residents were rarely punished, and many were transferred instead to other state run group homes.

Courtney Burke, Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, says this “culture of non-reporting” has to change.

Commissioner Burke says there’s a new policy at the group homes.

Workers are now required to immediately report any possible crimes they might witness against the developmentally disabled residents.

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