Cuomo has been warned that his house policies would kill the COVID group
The governor’s policy of floating caregivers in the state’s group homes has likely contributed to hundreds of deaths.
A New York state whistleblower says another wrong policy has cost the lives of the most vulnerable in the state, and he blames Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In 2011, Jeff Monsour won a landmark federal jury trial for retaliation against whistleblowers after exposing abuses in New York state group homes. He said The American Conservative that he and Mike Carey, whose son died in a group home over fourteen years ago, warned everyone – including Governor Cuomo – about the so-called floating policy and its harmful effects on the spread of COVID in group homes.
“You must immediately stop floating all swimming forces throughout your mental health system. It’s extremely dangerous and deadly, ”Carey wrote to Cuomo’s office in March 2020.
Monsour says this floating system means that group home workers are moving from one house to another. “You don’t even need to be tested [for COVID]”Monsour said. As a result, COVID-positive workers could move home from home and spread COVID to multiple locations.
Cuomo was confronted in May 2020 about this policy from CBS 6 in Albany. “When it comes to staff changes, I don’t know if this is the right practice or not, but we can check, ”he replied. “I don’t know the guidelines at OPWDD, but we will review the HR guidelines and see if anything has changed.”
Monsour says he doesn’t think Cuomo was unaware of this policy or any New York state policy: “His office manages everything.” Although Cuomo was asked about this policy in May, Monsour says it remains in place to this day.
He says Stony Brook, a state-run group, recently had a COVID outbreak that tested 10 people positive in the last month. He blames this “floater” policy because two employees recently returned without being tested from another group home where COVID cases had emerged.
The governor’s office did not reply to an email for comment.
The state office for people with developmental disorders (OPWDD) monitors the group houses. OPWDD issued a statement recognizing this guideline but insisting that it is rarely used:
The safety of the people supported by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is our top priority. In households where positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified, OPWDD allows staff reassignment only when strictly necessary to maintain critical staffing levels, when there is no other option to ensure safety. And we take all of themnecessary precautions to protect staff and residents, including infection control methods, quarantine measures and the use of PPE.
Monsour replied that the statement was none other than Spin:
OPWDD was completely unprepared for the pandemic due to years of systemic mismanagement. OPWDD had other mechanisms that they could have used during the pandemic to limit DSP levitation (e.g., using other trained staff who sat at home, there should have been no levitation to medically frail group homes, levitation should not have taken place circular lines). OPWDD had not set up a facility to bring COVID-positive patients to recovery. They took them back directly to the group’s homes. There’s only one thing that OPWDD rules during this pandemic and retaliation for employees who raise their concerns.
Monsour said he had received nothing but retaliation in response to his numerous complaints and disclosures regarding these policies. He said he was taken on administrative leave once a month, reassigned three times and asked for advice. The retribution is even bolder in light of Monsour’s 2011 victory in court than a jurydecided the statehad fought against him because of previous revelations of abuse in group homes.
Carey stated that just like the COVID deaths in nursing homes, Governor Cuomo is responsible for the deaths that have occurred in group homes as a result of this floater policy.
“Gov. Cuomo ignored dozens of whistleblower complaints about basic life-saving measures to protect our most vulnerable from dying in his own facilities and himself KNOWINGLY Caregivers continued to float from COVID positive group homes to other group homes with no mandatory testing of staff required – KNOWINGLY Spread of the virus and death, ”Carey stated in a recent email.
OWPDD recently told Fox News there were 558 deaths in group homes, but Carey believes the number is much higher. “The total number of OPWDD deaths is believed to be significantly higher than the OPWDD claims, as a total of 324 deaths were recorded in May 2020 and the deadly policy of floating employees from COVID group homes to non-COVID homes continues “said Carey in an email.
Carey’s son Jonathan died in a group home in 2007 after being mistreated by a staff member. After this New York Times Governor Cuomo swore action over death, but Carey said the changes only allowed his office to hide more abuse rather than expose it.
Carey also believes Cuomo’s office, like the deaths in nursing homes, worked proactively to cover up the extent of the damage. As shown in emails he provided TACOver the past year, he has been repeatedly prevented from receiving responses to FOIA requests for data on deaths in group homes.
“In 2012, the threat to the well-being of incompetent and physically disabled people was finally transformed from an offense into a criminal offense. I fought extremely hard for this critical reform for five years following the death of my precious 13 year old son Jonathan, who was killed in 2007 by his New York State. Carey further stated in an email. “Similar to the nursing home death scandal, the Cuomo government is hiding the death toll to hide the deaths in its agencies and group homes from New York state lawmakers, local authorities, the media and from families.”
Michael Volpe has worked as a freelance journalist since 2009 after spending more than a decade in the financial sector. He lives in Chicago.