December 2015
Vol. 3  No. 3
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National Experts Lead Justice Center Forensic Interview Training for Vulnerable Populations

As part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness and provide training to local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs hosted the second in a series of multi-day training events, featuring curriculum developed by the Justice Center's Office of the Special Prosecutor/Inspector General and presented by two experts in the field of forensic interviewing.

The training, held November 4-6, featured Dr. Scott Modell, a nationally known expert on crime victims with developmental disabilities and forensic interview techniques, and Dr. Eileen Treacy, a professor of psychology and scholar on child abuse.  Topics included information about the developmental and emotional needs of adults and children with intellectual or developmental disabilities; mental health diagnoses or substance abuse disorders; the abuse dynamics of vulnerable persons; and research-based strategies for effective interviewing.

The Justice Center’s training programs help to strengthen the state’s system of incident reporting, investigations and disciplinary processes, by giving local law enforcement a broader understanding of the lives and abilities of victims and witnesses with special needs and disabilities.

“Information from the victim or a witness is critical to an investigation of abuse or neglect and many first responders may not have a lot of experience dealing with persons with special needs,” said Patricia E. Gunning, Justice Center Special Prosecutor/Inspector General. “This training provides investigators and prosecutors with techniques to gather information in a non-traumatic way that will hold up in court if an investigation leads to a criminal prosecution.”

Drs. Modell and Treacy reminded participants that while it may be more difficult to elicit accurate and detailed evidence from a person with special needs, these individuals can often disclose relevant information about what they experienced or witnessed. Since the establishment of the Justice Center in June of 2013, cases involving the abuse of vulnerable persons that might have gone unreported in the past are now reported to and investigated by the Justice Center and local law enforcement agencies.

New Resources Available for Mandated Reporters

The Protection of People with Special Needs Act requires persons who are Mandated Reporters to report abuse, neglect and significant incidents involving vulnerable persons to the Justice Center’s statewide hotline known as the Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR).
The Justice Center has developed resources which include recorded training videos and guidance to help all Mandated Reporters (Custodians and Human Services Professionals) understand their critically important role in protecting people with special needs by recognizing and reporting abuse, neglect and significant incidents. These resources can be found on the Justice Center’s website.

Mandated Reporters can learn:
  • Their legal responsibilities;
  • What is a reportable incident;
  • Who is a Vulnerable Person;
  • How and where to make a report;
  • What happens after a report is made; and
  • Protections for Mandated Reporters under the law.
Custodians are individuals who are employed by, or volunteer at, state operated, licensed or certified facilities or agencies under the Justice Center’s jurisdiction. Consultants or contractors of organizations or companies that contract with facilities and agencies under the Justice Center’s jurisdiction are also considered to be custodians if they have regular and substantial contact with a service recipient.
Human Services Professionals are defined as those individuals who may not see a service recipient on a daily basis, but who interact with the individual during the course of providing professional services. These include medical and clinical professionals, and educators.

Any questions or concerns about the training resources should be directed to the Justice Center Training Division at
Justice Center Sponsors Vicarious Trauma Seminar
for Caregivers

Featuring Renowned Speaker and Author

The Justice Center sponsored a seminar in Albany for individuals who engage with those suffering from or experiencing trauma. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Founder and Director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute, offered a compelling mix of personal insight and important research to help caregivers gain a deeper understanding of the cumulative impact of ongoing exposure to suffering or trauma known as vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue.  
As the temperature drops, the dangers of leaving individuals receiving services unattended in vehicles rises. Help Protect People with Special Needs.  Click on the image above or here to place your order for free “Look Before You Leave” van hangtags.

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky presenting at Justice Center's Vicarious Trauma seminar, November 2.

Approximately 350 individuals attended the event at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, which is part of the Justice Center’s ongoing efforts to provide abuse prevention tools, resources and training for professionals who serve or interact with people with special needs.

Individuals who work in a variety of settings participated in the seminar including law enforcement, state agency, emergency medical services, and human services professionals, victim service providers and family members of people receiving services.

Lipsky explained the cyclical nature of vicarious trauma and the ways individuals can practice self-care to guard against and manage the effects of traumatic stress. She called trauma stewardship: “the entire conversation about how we come to do this work, how we are affected by it, and how we make sense of and learn from our experiences.”

Self-Assessment Tools for an Abuse Free Environment Available
To support abuse prevention efforts, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), State Education Department (SED) and the Justice Center have developed Self-Assessment Tools for an Abuse Free Environment for providers.
These tools help service providers evaluate their programs for risk of abuse or neglect, and provide resources to mitigate against the consequences of risk areas. The self-assessment is adapted from the Nursing Home Abuse Risk Profile and Checklist developed by the National Association of States United on Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) for the U.S. Administration on Aging.
Use of the self-assessment tools is optional and will not be audited by any state agency. Currently, tools are under development by the Office of Mental Health and Office of Children and Family Services. Below are links to the self-assessment tools developed by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and the State Education Department.
Justice Center in the News!
The Justice Center's Jurisdiction Covers Certain Programs Operated, Licensed or Certified by the Following
New York State Agencies

Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)
ffice of Mental Health (OMH)
ffice of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
ffice of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)
epartment of Health (DOH)
State Education Department (SED)
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