- Who can report an allegation of abuse or neglect?
- Can I find out who called in a report to the VPCR Hotline?
- What happens after a report is made?
- What are the different types of classifications?
- Who can be interviewed during an investigation?
- What can I expect if I am interviewed as a victim or witness?
- How will I know if I am identified as a victim?
- Do parents, guardians or personal representatives of the alleged victim receive notification when a report has been made?
- What happens during an investigation?
- How can a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for an individual find out the results of an investigation?
- What is Jonathan’s Law?
- What happens during a criminal case?
- What are the potential determinations of the investigation?
- Why would a report of abuse or neglect be classified as "unsubstantiated”?
- Who makes the determination on the investigative findings?
- How will I find out the results of an investigation?
- What does the notification about an “appeal” mean?
- What happens to staff found responsible for a Category 1 offense?
- What assistance is provided by the Justice Center for individuals and families?
- Where can I obtain assistance about disability-related issues and services?
- How can I report abuse or neglect?
Anyone – including a parent, advocate, or guardian – can make a report to the Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR) hotline and is encouraged to make a report when they have knowledge or have reason to believe that a person with special needs has been abused, neglected or mistreated. However, some people are required to report to the VPCR. These “mandated reporters” include provider agency staff and human service professionals who by nature of their job must report allegations of abuse and neglect. Mandated reporters include direct support staff, clinicians, administrative staff and other human service professionals, who, by the nature of their job, must report allegations of abuse and neglect.
The Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR) is a toll-free hotline and incident reporting system for allegations of abuse and neglect available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Justice Center cannot release the name(s) of the person(s) who made the report to the VPCR hotline or the name(s) of any person(s) who cooperated in the investigation.
A call center representative will first determine if an emergency responder is necessary and/or if the person receiving services is in danger or needs immediate assistance. If it is an emergency situation, the call center representative will instruct the caller to hang up and dial 9-1-1.
A trained call center representative collects information from the reporter and an incident number is assigned. Confidentiality laws protect reporters.
The call is recorded.
The incident is then classified.
The incident is then assigned to the appropriate entity for investigation or review.
The Justice Center conducts investigations for abuse or neglect incidents (based on severity and/or setting), financial misconduct, and deaths. Less serious incidents may be delegated to the appropriate State Oversight Agency, which may delegate to the provider agency .
- Abuse: Abuse can be physical, sexual, or psychological, as well as the deliberate misuse of restraint or obstruction of an investigation.
- Neglect: Neglect is the failure to provide supervision, or adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care or access to education.
- Significant Incident: A significant incident has the potential to result in harm to the health, safety or welfare of a person receiving services.
- Death (administrative): The death of a person receiving services from a facility or program under the death reporting jurisdiction of the Justice Center must be reported immediately to the Justice Center. All deaths reported to the Justice Center are reviewed to determine whether further investigation is necessary. If someone suspects that the death may have been the result of abuse or neglect, it must be reported separately to the VPCR hotline.
- Fiscal Misconduct: Allegations involving the theft of a service recipient’s personal funds or the mismanagement of public funds used to support the programs that serve them are reviewed by the Justice Center and referrals are made to the Office of Medicaid Inspector General and other appropriate law enforcement agencies as necessary.
Investigators will interview people who receive services who may have been victims or witnesses, and other people who witnessed or may otherwise have information about an incident. Investigators will interrogate subjects (e.g., employee, volunteer, intern, consultant, contractor) who are alleged to have committed the act of abuse or neglect.
The purpose of the interview is to learn what you know about what allegedly happened. You will be notified of the location, date, and time of the interview. Your interview is voluntary and you may take breaks during the interview. You should let the investigator know if you need an accessibility accommodation during the interview or if you do not understand something that is said.
As part of the investigation process, investigators collect materials and documents. Investigators will only ask to see personal items if it they are needed to complete the investigation.
If you are identified as a victim in an allegation of abuse or neglect, the facility or program will notify you within 24 hours. You will be provided with an incident or case serial number (also known as a confirmation number) from the VPCR. Please use this number if you have additional information related to the report or you are seeking information from the Justice Center about the report.
Yes. The program or provider provides notification to the legal guardian or personal representative after the program or provider learns that an allegation was made to the VPCR hotline.
A “personal representative” is someone who is legally permitted to act on behalf of the service recipient.
An investigator is assigned to the investigation. Depending on severity and setting of the allegation, the investigation will be conducted by the Justice Center, the State Oversight Agency, or the provider. Once the investigation is completed – regardless of who conducted the investigation – the Justice Center reviews the investigation. At the conclusion of the review process, the allegations are substantiated or unsubstantiated by the Justice Center.
A service recipient’s parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for the individual will be notified in writing by the Justice Center of the findings of an investigation. The determination letter will indicate whether the allegation(s) of abuse and/or neglect were substantiated or unsubstantiated. The findings of all investigations are maintained in the Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR). Legal guardians may also request additional information once the determination has been finalized. Reports provided will be redacted to remove personally identifying and confidential information. Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of the information and the challenge with verifying a caller’s identity, details of the report itself and additional investigative information cannot be disclosed over the phone.
Facilities operated, licensed or certified by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) must notify and inform parents and legal guardians of children and adults receiving services by telephone of accidents or injuries. The law also allows qualified persons to access certain documents pertaining to such incidents. For more information on this process, see the Jonothan's Law Brochure.
“Qualified persons” are defined in Jonathan’s Law as:
- Parents or other legal guardians of minor patients;
- Parents, legal guardians, spouses, or adult children of adult patients who are legally authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the adult patient; or
- Adult patients who have not been determined by a court to be legally incompetent.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor helps to coordinate the investigation and leads the prosecution of abuse and neglect cases where the alleged conduct rises to the level of a criminal offense. A team of Special Prosecutors and Justice Center investigators work together to gather evidence to support an arrest, file criminal charges and obtain a conviction or plea to ensure that justice is served. Criminal investigations typically include interviewing victims and witnesses. Additionally, the Justice Center works with local District Attorneys and law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal matters. If a prosecution is pursued by the Justice Center, coordination of victim services will be provided by the Individual and Family Support Unit (IFSU) in collaboration with the Prosecutions Unit.
Allegations of abuse or neglect are determined to be substantiated or unsubstantiated. Allegations may be substantiated if an abuse or neglect investigation determines that there is a preponderance of evidence to support the allegation. Preponderance of the evidence means that a review of the evidence shows whether the abuse and/or neglect was more likely than not to have occurred. Substantiated reports of abuse or neglect are classified into one of four categories depending on the severity. An unsubstantiated finding does not preclude other consequences, including disciplinary action.
A report may be determined to be "unsubstantiated" for a variety of reasons. There might not have been enough evidence to confirm that an incident of abuse or neglect had occurred or a specific individual was not found responsible for the incident. An unsubstantiated finding does not prevent other consequences which may include employee discipline, additional supervision training or other corrective actions.
The Justice Center makes a final determination about whether an allegation of abuse or neglect is substantiated and, if substantiated, the category level. The Justice Center will issue a substantiated or unsubstantiated finding for each allegation associated with any person who is a subject.
A “subject” refers to the individual named in the allegation as committing the act of abuse or neglect. Only staff may be considered to be subjects; not service recipients.
If you are the victim, a letter of findings (called a “letter of determination”) will be issued to you or your personal representative. On the same date, the Justice Center will notify the director of your facility or program, the State Oversight Agency that licenses or certifies your facility or program, and the subject(s) (e.g., employee, volunteer, intern, consultant, contractor) of the outcome of the investigation. These same parties are notified whether the allegation is substantiated or unsubstantiated. If you are interviewed as a witness, you will not receive information about the investigative findings.
Subjects (e.g., employee, volunteer, intern, consultant, contractor) of a substantiated report of abuse or neglect have the right to challenge the findings and must do so within 40 days. Any substantiated report may be challenged, regardless of the category determination. Personal representatives of service recipients will be notified if a subject pursues the appeals process. A notification will also be sent after the appeals process indicating the findings. For more information on the appeals process for subjects, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions for the Administrative Appeals Process.
The Justice Center maintains a statewide register known as the Staff Exclusion List (SEL) that contains the names of subjects (e.g., employee, volunteer, intern, consultant, contractor) found responsible for Category 1 offenses, which include certain serious acts of abuse or neglect. In addition, two Category 2 offenses within three years are elevated to a Category 1 and the subject is placed on the SEL. Individuals on the SEL will be prohibited from being hired by any state operated, certified or licensed agency or provider that serves people with special needs.
Service providers are required to check the SEL before hiring staff. The SEL is not a public list and only authorized individuals at provider agencies have access to the SEL as part of pre-employment screening.
Categories of Findings At-A-Glance
Category 1: Serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or other severe conduct by a subject. A Category 1 substantiation places the subject on the Staff Exclusion List (SEL). It also includes a second instance of Category 2 conduct that occurs within three years of a prior Category 2 finding. Subjects on the SEL remain on the list forever.
Category 2: A subject significantly endangers the health, safety or welfare of a service recipient by committing an act of abuse or neglect. Category 2 offenses are sealed after five years.
Category 3: Less serious incidents of abuse or neglect. Reports are sealed after five years.
Category 4: Conditions at a program or facility expose people receiving services to harm or risk of harm. Category 4 also includes instances in which it has been substantiated that an individual receiving services has been abused or neglected, but a perpetrator cannot be identified.
The Individual and Family Support Unit (IFSU) is a resource for victims of abuse or neglect, their families, personal representatives and guardians. IFSU advocates provide assistance in a variety of areas, including:
- guidance and information about the reporting and investigative process
- support during criminal cases and proceedings
- victim interview accompaniment
- case status updates
All services are free.
The Individual and Family Support Unit is staffed Monday toFriday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To contact an advocate:
Call: Toll-free at 1-800-624-4143 and request Individual and Family Support. Relay users, please dial 7-1-1 and give the operator 1-800-624-4143. Translation services are also available.
Fax: (518) 457-5180
The Justice Center’s Information and Referral Unit is available for people who have questions or concerns about disability-related issues and connects individuals to the appropriate program or service. Information and Referral Unit representatives are available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call toll-free 1-800-624-4143 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report abuse and neglect, call toll-free, 24/7, at 1-855-373-2122 or 1-855-373-2123 (TTY).