Frequently Asked Questions - Justice Center

What are the responsibilities of the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center)?

The Justice Center was created in legislation known as the “Protection of People with Special Needs Act” to establish the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs.  It serves both as a law enforcement agency and as an advocate for people with special needs.  The Justice Center’s responsibilities include:

  • Advocating on behalf of people with special needs and overseeing the quality of care they receive;
  • Ensuring that all allegations of abuse and neglect are fully investigated.   The Justice Center has legal authority to investigate incidents involving people with special needs. Its Special Prosecutor/Inspector General has the authority to prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses;
  • Operating a 24/7 Hotline which receives reports of allegations of abuse, neglect and significant incidents.  Reports are made by service providers and others who are “mandated reporters” as well as by any individual who witnesses or suspects the abuse or neglect of a person with special needs;
  • Maintaining a comprehensive statewide database that tracks cases until they are resolved and allows the Justice Center to monitor trends and develop abuse prevention initiatives;
  • Maintaining a “Staff Exclusion List” of individuals found responsible for the serious abuse or neglect of a person with special needs.   Anyone entered into this statewide register is prohibited from ever working again with people with special needs in New York. 
  • Operating an Information and Referral Line to respond to general disability-related inquiries;
  • Continuing existing advocacy programs including the Developmental Center Ombudsman Program, Surrogate Decision-Making, Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID) and Adult Homes Advocacy;
  • Administering the Inter-agency Coordinating Council for Services to Persons Who Are Deaf, Deaf-Blind or Hard-of-Hearing;
  • Monitoring the quality of mental health care in New York State correctional facilities; and
  • Promoting the inclusion of people with special needs in all aspects of community life.
What is the number to contact to report an incident of abuse or neglect involving a person with special needs?

The toll-free 24/7 Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR) hotline is 1-855-373-2122.  The tele-typewriter (TTY) service is available by calling 1-855-373-2123.

What is the number to contact regarding disability services and advocacy?

The Justice Center operates a toll-free Information and Referral (I&R) Line, a statewide service that provides assistance to callers who have questions or concerns about disability services or issues.  The I&R Line is staffed by trained professionals who can be reached during normal business hours (M-F 8:30 am to 4:30 pm).   For voice calls, dial 1-800-624-4143. For TTY calls, dial 7-1-1 for the NYS Relay and give the operator 1-800-624-4143.  To contact I&R staff by email:

What is the contact information for the Justice Center?

The Justice Center is located at 161 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, NY 12054. For general information, call (518) 549-0200 during normal business hours (M-F, 8:30 am-5:00 pm).

Who is protected by the Justice Center and what programs does it oversee?

The Act defines a “vulnerable person” as a person who, due to physical or cognitive disabilities or the need for services or placement, is receiving care from a facility or provider within the systems of the State Oversight Agencies (SOA): 

  • Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)
    • Facilities and programs that are operated, certified, or licensed by OPWDD
  • Office of Mental Health (OMH)
    • With some exceptions, facilities and programs that are operated, certified, or licensed by OMH
  • Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)
    • Facilities and provider agencies that are operated, certified, or licensed by OASAS
  • Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
    • Facilities and programs operated by OCFS for youth placed in the custody of the Commissioner of OCFS
    • OCFS licensed or certified residential facilities that care for abandoned, abused, neglected, and dependent children, Persons in Need of Supervision, or juvenile delinquents
    • Family-type homes for adults
    • OCFS certified runaway and homeless youth programs
    • OCFS certified youth detention facilities
  • Department of Health (DOH)
    • Adult care facilities licensed by DOH that have over 80 beds, and where at least 25 percent of the residents are persons with serious mental illness and where fewer than 55 percent of beds designated as Assisted Living Program (ALP) beds
    • Overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camps for children with developmental disabilities under the jurisdiction of DOH
  • State Education Department (SED)
    • New York State School for the Blind
    • New York State School for the Deaf
    • State-supported (4201) schools, which have a residential component
    • Special Act School Districts
    • In-state private residential schools approved by SED
    • Residential schools or facilities located outside  of  New  York  State that serve New York State residents
What happens when the VPCR Hotline receives a report of abuse and neglect?

A trained call center representative will first determine if an emergency response is necessary and/or if the person receiving services faces imminent danger.  If it is an emergency situation, the representative will instruct the caller to phone 9-1-1 immediately, if this has not yet occurred.  A Justice Center supervisor will also contact the appropriate agency supervisor to inform him/her of the report.

When a caller makes a report, the call center representative carefully enters all details of the incident into an automated case management system. Serious abuse and neglect cases will be investigated by the Justice Center, with lesser offenses generally delegated to the appropriate state agency for investigation.  If criminal conduct may be involved, the Justice Center’s Special Prosecutor/Inspector General will investigate and prosecute offenders when the evidence warrants such action.

What types of incidents should be reported to the Justice Center?

Reports should be made regarding any situation in which a person who is receiving supports or services is experiencing abuse, neglect, sexual, financial or emotional exploitation, or is at risk of experiencing any of these reportable incidents in one of the settings over which the Justice Center has jurisdiction.

Types of abuse and neglect to be reported include:

  • Physical abuse: intentional contact such as: hitting, kicking, shoving, corporal punishment or an injury which cannot be explained and is suspicious due to extent or location;
  • Sexual abuse:  inappropriate touching, indecent exposure, sexual assault, taking or distributing sexually explicit photos, voyeurism or other sexual exploitation;
  • Psychological or emotional abuse:  taunting, name calling, using threatening words or gestures; 
  • Deliberate misuse of restraint or seclusion:  use of these interventions with excessive force, as a punishment or for the convenience of staff;
  • Neglect:  failure to provide supervision, or adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care or access to an educational entitlement;
  • Aversive conditioning: Unpleasant physical stimulus used to modify behavior without person-specific legal authorization; or 
  • Obstruction: Interfering with the discovery, reporting or investigation of abuse/neglect, falsifying records or intentionally making false statements.

Types of significant incidents to be reported include:

  • Use of restraint when it is avoidable, involves a banned technique or is used by inadequately trained staff;
  • Unauthorized seclusion or time-out;
  • Harmful interactions between people with special needs that could reasonably have been prevented;  
  • Administration of a medication contrary to a medical order resulting in an adverse impact; or
  • Any other conduct identified in regulations of the State Oversight Agency, pursuant to guidelines or standards established by the Justice Center Executive Director.
Who should report allegations of abuse, neglect or significant incidents to the Hotline?

The Justice Center encourages anyone, including a person with special needs who has been abused or neglected,  or who has witnessed abuse or neglect or suspects a person with special needs has been abused or neglected, to make a report to the Justice Center.

Who is required by law to report incidents of abuse and neglect to the Justice Center?

Individuals who are employed by, or volunteer at, state operated, licensed or certified facilities or agencies under the Justice Center’s jurisdiction must report incidents of abuse and neglect to the Justice Center.  Consultants, volunteers 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. 

In addition, certain human services professionals are considered by law to be “Mandated Reporters” who must report incidents of abuse and neglect.  These professionals include: 

Human Service Professionals 

Medical/Clinical Professionals

Registered Physician Assistant
Medical Examiner
Dental Hygienist
Registered Nurse
Licensed Practical Nurse
Nurse Practitioner
Mental Health Professional
Licensed Psychoanalyst
Social Worker
Christian Science Practitioner
Emergency Medical Technician
Person Credentialed by OASAS
Hospital Personnel Engaged in the Admission, Examination, Care or Treatment
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Licensed Behavior Analyst and Certified Behavior Analyst
Licensed Speech/Language Pathologist or Audiologist
Licensed Physical Therapist
Licensed Occupational Therapist 

Education Professionals

School Teacher
School Guidance Counselor
School Psychologist
School Social Worker
School Nurse
Social Services Worker
School Administrator
Other School Personnel Required to Hold a Teaching or Administrative License or Certificate
Full or part-time compensated school employee required to hold a temporary coaching license or professional coaching certificate
Any other Child Care or Foster Care Worker 

Law Enforcement Personnel

Peace Officer
Police Officer
District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney
Investigator employed in the office of a district attorney
Any other Law Enforcement Official

When are Mandated Reporters required to report an incident to the Justice Center?

Mandated Reporters, who have reasonable cause to suspect that a reportable incident has occurred, must report it to the VPCR immediately upon discovery. 

Discovery Occurs When:

A mandated reporter witnesses a suspected reportable incident; or another person, including a service recipient or family member, provides the mandated reporter with reasonable cause to suspect that a service recipient has been subjected to a reportable incident. 

Reasonable Cause to Suspect

Based on all the evidence, facts and circumstances known or readily available to you, it is rational to think that the service recipient was subjected to a reportable incident.  When deciding whether there is reasonable cause to suspect that a  reportable incident occurred, you should consider your own observations, trainings, experiences and common sense in assessing the reliability of information presented to you, as well as assessing whether the service recipient suffered an injury and, if so, whether you believe the explanation of how the injury occurred.

If you are unsure whether you have a reasonable cause to suspect that a service recipient was subjected to a reportable incident, we encourage you to report the incident to the Justice Center. 

You could also consult with your supervisor, quality assurance staff or other appropriate staff.  Remember, however, each mandated reporter has a personal obligation to report a suspected reportable incident individually to the Justice Center. 

Reporting to the VPCR is an additional reporting requirement and does not relieve the Mandated Reporter of any other reporting requirements or duties that may be required by law, regulation or policy.   

What number do I call to report an incident of abuse or neglect of a person with special needs?

The VPCR Hotline number is 1-855-373-2122.  It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a toll-free call.

Will non-English speakers be able to make reports to the VPCR hotline?

The Justice Center can accommodate non-English speakers through its language interpreter services.  It also has the capability to assist hearing-impaired individuals who need to make a report.  The Tele-Typewriter (TTY) service is available by calling 1-855-373-2123.

Are there other ways to report an incident to the Justice Center?

Yes. Custodians (e.g., employees, volunteers, directors and operators of covered facilities and programs as well as external staff who have regular and substantial contact with people being served) can report an incident by completing the web form on the Justice Center’s website or by downloading the mobile app for Android devices.  Reports submitted via web form are handled in a similar manner to call reports.

What happens when a reported incident is outside the jurisdiction of the Justice Center?

The Justice Center has jurisdiction over several systems.  However, should the Justice Center receive a report from outside its jurisdiction, it will collect all relevant information and forward the information to the responsible entity for appropriate handling.  Whenever possible, the Justice Center will endeavor to connect the caller to the appropriate entity immediately.

What happens if the Justice Center receives a report alleging the mistreatment of an individual with special needs who receives services from a state agency or program, but who does not live in a certified or operated residential site?

The Justice Center will receive these complaints and process or refer them as appropriate.

What is the role of the Justice Center with regard to investigating allegations of abuse or neglect of students in schools?

The Justice Center is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect involving day and residential students who attend a residential school (e.g., the New York State School for the Blind, the New York State School for the Deaf, a State-supported school which has a residential component, a Special Act School, or an approved private residential school).  

The law also authorizes the Justice Center to investigate all complaints of abuse and neglect at all approved out-of-state schools serving students with disabilities.  In coordination with the Justice Center, the State Education Department and other state oversight agencies will investigate significant incidents that occur in these schools and monitor corrective action plans.

What happens to individuals who are found responsible for seriously abusing or neglecting a person with special needs?

The Justice Center maintains a “Staff Exclusion List,” a statewide register that contains the names of individuals found responsible for serious or repeated acts of abuse or neglect as defined by law.  Individuals on the Staff Exclusion List (SEL) will be prohibited from being hired by any facility or provider agency licensed or certified by a State Oversight Agency that serve people with special needs.  Employers are required to check this list before hiring employees who will be working with anyone with special needs.

Will the public have access to information about individuals whose names appear on the Staff Exclusion List (SEL)?

No. Under the law, access to the Staff Exclusion List (SEL) is limited to authorized staff at the Justice Center who will advise providers if a potential applicant is on the list.

Since the Justice Center is a law enforcement agency, will other law enforcement agencies still be involved in determining if a crime has been committed?

In criminal cases, the Justice Center collaborates with State Police, local law enforcement agencies and District Attorneys to pursue prosecution to the extent allowed by the law.  Justice Center staff includes trained investigators with the authority to make arrests.  

The Justice Center also has a Special Prosecutor/Inspector General who can bring criminal charges in courts across the state. The Special Prosecutor/Inspector General is not intended to replace local law enforcement, but to provide additional resources to existing law enforcement agencies and District Attorneys in investigating and prosecuting cases of abuse and neglect involving people with special needs.

What is the role of the Justice Center’s Advisory Council?

The Advisory Council provides guidance to the Justice Center in the development of policies, programs and regulations.  The Council is comprised of a minimum of 15 members who are appointed for 1 to 3-year terms by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.  Members include service providers, people who have or are currently receiving services, their family members and advocates.  At least one-half of the members must be individuals or parents or relatives of individuals who are or have received services from programs within the Justice Center’s jurisdiction.  The Council meets at least 4 times a year.