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Stewart L. Cohen, Esq. Speaks Out After Reports Surface of Atrocities Committed Against Disabled Persons Within the City of Philadelphia

According to Stewart L. Cohen, Esq., trial attorney at the law firm of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, and disabilities advocate, “words are inadequate to describe the atrocities” which were reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, October 18, 2011.

The atrocities were first reported on Saturday, October 15, 2011, at approximately 10:40 am, when Philadelphia Police discovered Herbert Knowles and three other people locked in a sub-basement of an apartment building located at 4724 Longshore Avenue in Philadelphia. Herbert and the three other adult mentally challenged victims appeared malnourished and were taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Reports were then issued by media outlets nationally, reporting that both children and adults with mental and physical disabilities were locked in a Philadelphia basement by individuals who were reportedly stealing their Social Security disability checks, perhaps as part of a much larger fraud scheme.

On November 3, 2011, Stewart L. Cohen spoke out in an Op-Ed piece which was published by the Philadelphia Daily News. In the article he addresses the state of social-service programs within the city of Philadelphia, and challenges the “proposed budget cuts” which directly impact organizations regionally and nationally, such as United Cerebral Palsy, to continue to provide programs to help prevent future abuses of this kind.

According to Stewart L. Cohen, “Unfortunately, charitable donations are down, and at the same time the state government is seeking to reduce its funding of programs like UCP across the state. The service providers were recently notified by Pennsylvania’s Department of Welfare of considerable reductions in funding for day-care and residential programs for the disabled. These cuts threaten the continued viability of the social-service system for persons with developmental disabilities across this state.

In addition, “the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, in cooperation with Pennsylvania Health Law Project, has filed a formal complaint with the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Urging immediate intervention to prevent the Pennsylvania Department of Aging from reducing the amount of “Community Integration Services” funded by the state. These abrupt cuts will leave persons with disabilities without the services they need to protect their health and welfare,” declares Stewart L. Cohen, Esq.

Mr. Cohen feels that the “proposed budget adjustments” which have been reported “will do nothing to reduce the likelihood of more tragedies like those which were found in the Philadelphia basement.”

The article serves as an Op-ed piece but also as a call to action. Stewart L. Cohen, who has been an advocate for persons with disabilities since 1973 feels that people nationally need to directly support organizations with contributions and encourage and support elected leaders and urge them to not cut the very funding that is required to help people within our communities.

Words are inadequate to describe the atrocities against the children and adults with mental and physical disabilities discovered in Philadelphia recently – and this is not the first time such circumstances have occurred. These individuals represent some of the most vulnerable members of society, and deserve our protection and support. The moral test of our society is how we protect our children, the elderly and disabled.

Stewart L. Cohen is a Philadelphia trial lawyer and advocate for the disabled. He is an emeritus member of the board of directors of UCP and a past president of the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania.

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