Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. held a press conference Friday afternoon, June 5, to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would require hospitals to allow people with disabilities to have a support person present during their visit — even during a pandemic.
Bill S.1035A, also known as Fred’s Law, passed the state Senate and Assembly and now awaits Cuomo’s signature or veto. The bill has yet to reach his desk but is expected to within the coming weeks.
Fred D’Amico, an adult with autism, was admitted to Long Island Hospital with COVID-19 in March of last 2020. His family, also his lifelong caretakers, could not come inside and advocate for him because of COVID-19 restrictions. D’Amico died shortly after being admitted.
The family stayed in the parking lot during his hospitalization, often calling to ask about his condition. Addabbo said the hospital told the family “to stop calling so much” at the height of the pandemic.
The press conference was held at D’Amico’s favorite hang-out spot: the Regal Cinema at the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale.
“They weren’t there to comfort him, they weren’t there to say goodbye,” said Addabbo. “We have a lot to learn, for the next pandemic, for other families. If somebody enters a hospital with a disorder or disabilities, it’s a lot different for them. They cannot relay their medical needs.”
Maria D’Amico, Fred’s mother, pleaded for Cuomo to sign the bill in a tearful statement.
“No one should have to suffer the pain we are suffering every day,” said D’Amico. “Please, Cuomo, sign this bill.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who also sponsored the bill, spoke about her time working as a paraprofessional, when she would often deal with students with disabilities.
“This was a no-brainer, not as an assembly member, but as a mother,” said Amato. “Sometimes it’s not easy to get our colleagues to support an issue, [but] this was not hard at all, because it’s the right thing to do. We will make sure no other family is in this situation.”
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar also joined the press conference and supported the bill.
Connie Altamirano, a community activist, introduced the D’Amico family to Addabbo and advocated for the passage of the bill.
“I’m so happy to see that the bill has passed and I respectfully ask [Cuomo] to please sign it into law so that the D’Amico family can have peace of mind knowing that other families will not go through what they did,” said Altamirano.
Chris Peplinski, a friend of the family, has a brother with non-verbal autism and said the bill “would be really impactful for my family.”
“What happened to [D’Amico] shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” said Peplinski.