Andrew Cuomo as Governor of New York State talks a lot about reducing the cost of government and operating government more efficiently. Cuomo has done some good things like forming the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission.

I applaud Cuomo for seeking to address government spending and efficiency but believe that he has made a mistake by calling for the creation of a new state agency with more than 400 employees, charged with policing neglect and abuse of disabled people in the state system. The Post-Star newspaper in Glens Falls, NY wrote a great editorial titled Change Is Good; Bureaucracy Is Not. The editorial makes the following points:

– New York should be reforming the way it provides services to disabled people, especially in state-run group homes and institutions, but what the state should not be doing is stacking more bureaucracy on top of the six state agencies that already devote resources to this task.

– Gov. Cuomo would do much better to take the $50 million a year the new agency will cost (and that estimate strikes us as low) and put it into lowering the staff-to-patient ratios at state homes and institutions and improving the quality of workers by raising their pay and giving them better training.

– It is demanding and exhausting and important work and the state should require everyone who does it holds at least a community residence aid certificate.

– Home health aides who work for agencies funded by Medicare or Medicaid must meet minimum standards of preparation, which include 75 hours of training plus 16 hours of supervised work, and group home workers should have at least as much training.

– Instead of addressing the problem at its source by raising the standards and the salaries, Cuomo is turning to politicians’ favorite solution — a brand-new bureaucracy.

– The quality of care for the state’s disabled population is determined by the quality of workers providing that care, and that is where the reform should be focused.

– New York will not clean up one bureaucratic mess by layering another bureaucracy on top.

 Clarence J. Sundram, the governor’s special adviser on vulnerable populations a few months ago stated: ” We don’t have any consistency in public policy when it comes to this vulnerable population,”. According to Sundram sometimes a maze of regulations were in place, even at a single campus of state facilities. A school, a group home, a substance abuse program and a foster care program might each be run by different agencies, following different rules, in the same location.

I agree with the Post-Star editorial that reforming how the state disability agencies work can be done without creating a new bureaucracy. What causes an agency to fail is lack of leadership, poor training, badly designed bureaucratic systems. Creating an additional agency does not address any of the real reasons that agencies serving the disabled are failing.

What do you think?

www.reinventinggov.org