ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two years after a 33-year-old mentally disabled man died at a state institution in Queens, and one year after his sister filed a lawsuit accusing the staff of killing him, New York officials have sent her an $11.67 million bill.
The claim against Rasheen Rose's estate cited his total Medicaid assistance from Aug. 6, 2002, through Aug. 6, 2012, the day he died.
A spokeswoman for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which runs the center, said Wednesday officials were following federal Medicaid obligations in seeking reimbursement.
"Not doing so would be a violation and could put federal Medicaid funding at risk," spokeswoman Jennifer O'Sullivan said.
Medicaid, a state and federal program for the poor, doesn't typically demand reimbursement.
But Ilann Maazel, an attorney who has filed lawsuits against the state after others died in state care, said other claim notices recently have been sent to families suing.
"This is something new we're seeing ... and it's problematic," he said Wednesday.
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, an advocate for the disabled whose adult son gets state-funded residential care, called it "retaliation" and "an outrage" to send the bill to someone who lost a loved one from abusive care. "They're going to punish these people because they brought it to view of justice," he said.
The New York medical examiner concluded Rose's death was a homicide and that he "became unresponsive" while being restrained at Fineson Developmental Center. The Queens district attorney's office said it wasn't notified about the death until that homicide ruling was made four months later. Investigators found no criminal conduct but have left the case open, spokesman Kevin Ryan said.
Shaneice Luke, Rose's sister, is seeking unspecified punitive and other damages in a federal lawsuit. She alleges that at least three staff threw Rose to the ground and one sat on him, while other staff stood by. She also alleges a history of abuse at Fineson and failure by supervisors and the state to address that or to train staff properly.
"Rasheen Rose did not receive care remotely associated with the amount of money collected by OPWDD for Rasheen Rose over the 10-year period," attorney Aaron DePass replied to the state agency on Luke's behalf. Because he was actually killed by his supposed caregivers, "it is clear that the quality of care he received does not warrant any payment for services whatsoever," he wrote.
In federal court papers, all seven staff named in the lawsuit denied any wrongdoing, saying they acted within their professional judgment. The state attorney general and private lawyers are defending them.
Two years ago, a congressional oversight committee reported that New York's residential centers for the developmentally disabled like Fineson, which have largely emptied in an ongoing shift to community-based programs and group homes, cost Medicaid about $1.9 million a year for each patient.
The Cuomo administration last year announced plans to close four developmental centers over four years, including Fineson in 2017.