The 2017-2018 NYS legislative session resulted in the enactment of several new laws aimed at individuals with developmental disabilities.
One measure was designed to improve early screening to diagnose autism-spectrum disorders. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published practice guidelines recommending screening for autism-spectrum disorders between 18 and 24 months old, but many practitioners had not implemented consistent screening. Public Health Law section 2500-j now mandates that pediatric primary-care providers screen for developmental disabilities for children ages three and under.
On another front, section 33.17 of the Mental Hygiene Law was amended to recognize personal gender preference in relation to transporting individuals to activities and appointments by agencies providing services to individuals with disabilities. Now, within staffing limitations and upon request, an individual who is being transported to or from a facility may be accompanied by a staff member of the same gender.
Finally, the new Mental Hygiene Law section 13.43 established a statewide identification card for individuals with developmental disabilities that can be presented to law enforcement and emergency-services personnel. The card will include the name, address, and date of birth of the individual, with an option to include a phone number of an emergency contact. Most importantly, the card will include a statement that the individual has been diagnosed with a developmental disability and they may have difficulty understanding and following instructions, may be unable to respond, or may become physically agitated in response to verbal prompts or physical touch. This optional identification card will help the individual to communicate important information, including difficulties with interpersonal communication and physical contact that they may be unable to otherwise communicate when interacting with law enforcement or in an emergency.
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