It turns out that hundreds of non-profits are in violation of some outdated state laws. According to the law, any nurse, social worker or even specialized doctor cannot be supervised by a non-professional. As YNN's Bobby Cuza reports, the glitch has gotten the attention of at least one Albany lawmaker.
NEW YORK STATE -- The Coalition for the Homeless is a non-profit group that provides services to those on society’s fringes. The group employs about a half-dozen licensed social workers and a nurse, which, under state law, is technically illegal.
“The state law right now apparently prohibits non-profit organizations like Coalition for the Homeless from hiring licensed social workers," said Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless.
The issue is with licensed professions, some 50 of which are regulated by the state education department, from acupuncture to dentistry to speech pathology. On the theory that licensed professionals shouldn’t be supervised by unlicensed professionals, these individuals can’t be employed by corporations, including non-profits.
Hospitals are exempt, so they can hire doctors and nurses. So are places like Lens Crafters, so they can hire optometrists.
Social service groups had until last week to apply individually for a waiver. Those who didn’t are now committing a crime.
How this state law will be enforced is another question. It seems unlikely social service groups or other organizations will be prosecute,; but the law does create significant problems. In applying for city funding, for instance, a group must be certified as being in compliance with all city and state laws.
"Even if you don’t get busted, if you’re violating that law, and the city wants to contract with you, they generally don’t contract with people who are violating laws," said Michael Stoller, Human Services Council Executive Director.
"I think we ought to take another look at the law, see how we can tweak it," said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.
Stavisky says changing the law makes more sense than sifting through hundreds of waiver applications. So far, there is no legislation in the works in Albany.