Widespread Abuse, Neglect and Death in Small Settings Serving People with Intellectual Disabilities - 2011 & 2012
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The Seattle Times, December 18, 2012
Report: State ignoring abuse at group homes
A watchdog organization says the state is failing to protect some of Washington's most vulnerable people — those with developmental disabilities who live in group homes. Disability Rights Washington says overworked investigators focus on rule compliance, often overlooking the substance of complaints.
Of almost 3,000 abuse, neglect or safety-violation complaints filed in the past two years, more than 1,000 were closed by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) without any investigation, according to DRW.
Even those cases that were opened often sat for weeks or months before an investigation began.
“What we found is an abuse-response system that is fatally flawed,” said David Carlson, DRW’s director of legal advocacy. “We need a safety net that keeps people safe. DSHS is not doing that.”
Fox News, August 16, 2012
House Fire At Special Needs Group Home Kills Three
Arson investigators are on the scene of a house fire right now sifting through what`s left of a group home for special needs men. The San Antonio Fire Department says the fire started just before 11 pm. One person died inside the house and two others died at the hospital. There is one other person being treated at the hospital and they are in stable condition. Fire investigators say they don`t know how the fire started. Neighbors called in the fire after seeing flames coming from the home last night. Several residents were trapped in the home as the fire spread. There are reports that some of the residents were jumping from windows to save themselves. 13 mentally disabled adults were living at the home at the time.
Associated Press, July 22, 2012
Ex-group home employee sentence to 20 years
A former group home employee has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in the beating death of one of the home's residents. Tyler Brock, who is 22, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree manslaughter in the 2011 death of 35-year-old Shawn K. Akridge, a disabled resident at a group home. Judge Hunter Daugherty called the attack "heinous" and said it "defies explanation" on Friday before issuing the sentence.
Belleville News-Democrat, June 27, 2012
Hidden suffering, hidden death: State agency won't investigate after 53 deaths of those in its care
The state agency created to prevent neglect and abuse of disabled adults who live at home rejects hundreds of hotline calls for help each year and doesn't investigate when people die after severe mistreatment. The Office of the Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Human Services received broad powers through legislation in 2000 that expanded its responsibility for protecting physically and mentally disabled people who live outside community facilities and state institutions. The OIG, which operates independently, investigates neglect and abuse complaints made to a statewide hotline operated by the agency. But when the subject of a hotline call is hospitalized and dies soon after, the OIG closes the case without investigating the circumstances surrounding the death because of the agency's interpretation of state law. According to OIG documents, the agency is prohibited from investigating the moment a death occurs. The OIG considers such an investigation a "service," and the dead are "ineligible for services" under the agency's interpretation of Rule 51 -- a legislative directive that governs the Adults with Disabilities Abuse Project, the OIG documents state. 53 cases since May 2003 that fit this pattern: Neglect or abuse of a critically ill, disabled adult in their home, followed by an ambulance ride to an emergency room and death, usually within a few days or weeks. In some cases, disabled, often critically ill people were starved, left to suffer in pain, denied medication or forced to lie for days in their own feces and urine. Some who died were unable to move when ambulance attendants found them.
Hartford Courant, June 15, 2012
State Investigating More Charges Against Group Homes Operator
An organization that receives about $2 million per year in public funds to care for developmentally disabled people in several group homes in Hartford and Glastonbury is again under state review over allegations of poor care. In an unsigned letter to the executive director of Humanidad Inc. and to the state Department of Developmental Services, a group of Humanidad employees allege that staffing shortages are creating a dangerous situation, that the homes lack basic resources such as groceries and activity programs, and that clients in general are receiving subpar treatment.
The News & Advance, June 11, 2012
Investigator sees problems in private group homes
A Lynchburg-based investigator for the state Department of Social Services, testifying in a federal court hearing Friday, opened a window into the little-viewed world of what can happen inside Virginia’s system of caring for people with disabilities. The investigator, Ted Campbell, said he has encountered incidents involving unexplained injuries to intellectually disabled people, caregivers who are fired and investigations cut short. Among the incidents Campbell described in testimony before U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney was one involving a woman who had moved from Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights into a privately operated home within the past few years. She left the training center in good health, but a couple months later was found to have a large bedsore that hadn’t been cleaned. Investigators’ attempts to follow up on the case ran into roadblocks. The incident is a single case involving just one of the 8,000 or more Virginians with intellectual disabilities who have left training centers over the past several years to receive care from other providers. A report from Adult Protective Services, a branch of the state Department of Social Services, indicated 1,200 residents were victims of abuse or neglect during fiscal year 2011 in privately operated nursing facilities, assisted-living facilities and other living places. That report did not specify which of those victims were former residents of Virginia’s training centers.
WSLS-10 (NBC), May 23, 2012
Home caretaker charged with abusing disabled patient in Grayson County
Her title was in-home caretaker with Wall Residences, Inc. (a 10 year employee), but Melanie Melton was doing anything but her job, according to sheriff’s officials. Court documents show she was indicted on charges of abuse against an incapacitated person and investigators highlight that the abuse was, “So gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” The person Melton was caring for was “dehydrated from improper feeding, and had unattended bed sores so bad they turned to gangrene,” said Chief Deputy Mike Hash, with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department. The abuse is said to have happened between April 1 and April 25, at Melton's home in the Baywood Community of Grayson County. We went to her house to ask her about the charges, but no one answered the door. She turned herself into authorities more than a week ago after being indicted by the grand jury. The victim was treated at a nearby hospital and is said to be recovering.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2012
Lax enforcement in personal care homes
Deficiencies in care, living conditions and record-keeping have piled up in scores of Georgia personal care homes (35,000), with the state rarely shutting down violators or levying heavy fines (just 544 cases with an average fine of $500), The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found. An analysis of five years’ worth of inspections found numerous troubling instances — from live cockroaches in the kitchen of one home to another in which eight residents were out of medication. Unlike nursing homes, personal care homes do not provide intensive medical care. Instead, they provide lodging, food, bathing and other grooming services, and can help residents manage their medications. Many are in individual homes in residential neighborhoods. Common problems included residents who were so frail or ill that they needed services beyond those provided by personal care homes. Other common issues were failure to document required employee training, failure to conduct regular fire drill evacuations, failure to obtain background checks on employees and inadequate staffing. But some cases were far more serious, leading to resident death.
New York Times, May 8, 2012
Monitoring Care for the Disabled
The stories of abuse, suffering and unexplained deaths among those sent to homes for the disabled in New York State are horrifying. A worker sits on an autistic boy and crushes him to death. Another worker sexually abuses a 54-year-old disabled woman. A quadriplegic drowns as an aide leaves him in a tub of water. As reported in The Times over the last year, there have been numerous cases of abuse and at least 1,200 deaths attributed to unnatural or unknown causes in publicly financed homes for the disabled in the last decade. Many cases have barely been investigated, with incompetent workers often being moved to a different facility, without being prosecuted.
Virginia Attorney General's Office news release, May 7, 2012
Martinsville group home owner guilty in abuse, death of Parkinson's patient
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced today that Richard C. Wagoner, Jr., was found guilty of abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult that resulted in death. Wagoner owned and operated The Claye Corporation, a group home for adults in Martinsville. The victim, Joseph Tuggle, 57, an intellectually disabled adult suffering from Parkinson's disease who received care in a group home operated by The Claye Corporation, was placed under a faucet running scalding water and suffered second- and third-degree burns on his legs, face, buttocks, and arm. Ten days later, Mr. Tuggle was found dead in his bed with scabbed burns. The medical examiner determined that Tuggle died from sepsis and pneumonia secondary to thermal injury. His death was ruled as a direct result of the injuries he sustained on February 8, 2011. Caregivers failed to call 911 and, at Wagoner’s orders, did not transport Tuggle the hospital. "Not only did Wagoner fail to properly prevent conditions in which an incapacitated and helpless patient could suffer from such abject neglect and abuse, he also explicitly and deliberately deprived Mr. Tuggle of the care he needed to survive these injuries," said Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. "This kind of gruesome irresponsibility and depravity is despicable, and it's my hope that today's announcement will send a clear, stern message that this behavior simply will not be tolerated in Virginia." The case was investigated by the Martinsville Police Department and the attorney general's Health Care Fraud and Elder Abuse Section. The Elder Abuse section specializes in investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of incapacitated adults, employing both nurse investigators and criminal investigators to assist localities in determining the root cause of injuries and holding responsible persons accountable for their crimes.
Associated Press, May 5, 2012
Verdict in Illinois Group Home Death Leaves Questions
The violent death of Paul McCann led to improvements in how Illinois intends to protect the mentally disabled in group homes, but the trial of the first man accused of killing him suggests to some that justice and equality are still a challenge for them. Jurors trying the case of caretaker Keyun Newble, 26, charged with killing McCann at an eastern Illinois group home, heard about the brutal injuries the 42-year-old suffered. He had 13 broken ribs and lungs filled with fluid, part of what a doctor called "massive internal injuries" suffered as apparent punishment for stealing cookies. Newble was charged with murder, which would have sent him to prison for at least 20 years. But the judge allowed the option of a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter, and the jurors took it, making him eligible for a sentence as short as three years. For advocates of the disabled, the April 27 verdict was insulting. McCann's family reacted with confusion. Both are trying to make sense of the verdict's message just as officials are trying to better safeguard the lives of disabled people who need care from the state. Gov. Pat Quinn has made it a priority to close institutions for disabled people like McCann and transfer them into situations closer to their families, such as in group homes. But the effort has drawn criticism from some affected families.
COFAR Blog, May 4, 2012
Commonwealth’s DPPC faults care plan in group home resident’s death
A state investigative agency (the Disabled Persons Protection Commission) has concluded that a Tyngsborough group home resident died last year as a result of having ingested an inedible object, and that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that his death was due to a lack of adequate supervision by caregivers. The 50-year-old man, who had formerly lived at the Fernald Developmental Center, had reportedly ingested a plastic bag. The July 6 death of the resident is one of three cases of death involving former developmental center residents, all men in their 50s. In both of the sudden death incidents, the men had been transferred to state-operated group homes operated by Northeast Residential Services, a division of the Department of Developmental Services. DDS has refused to discuss or provide any information about these deaths, citing confidentiality and privacy regulations. In a third case, a 51-year-old resident of a Northeast Residential Services home died on February 7, 2012 after having been sent back to his residence twice by Lowell General Hospital. That man had formerly lived at the Fernald Center as well.
Dallas Morning News, May 4, 2012
Group homes need city standards in Dallas
City Councilmen are considering reforms to improve the quality of life of individuals in group home care. Calls for finally moving beyond the status quo of just regulating zoning and building code violations and do something to ensure that these vulnerable citizens have a decent place to live are being debated. Council members discussed how poorly run group homes are one of the worst problems in their districts, noting that some operators in southern Dallas are in “the business of housing,” that is, caring more about making money off needy residents than in providing services. Other council members and Mayor Mike Rawlings also seem to understand that the city can no longer ignore the mediocre care, crowded sleeping quarters and shoddy facilities that characterize some of the 300-plus group homes in Dallas. City staffers, however, appear to be resisting the ordinance. As things stand, too many group home residents here lack access to decent services, live in facilities where operators take their money and give them little to live on, and confront drugs or violence in their quarters. These residents are the ones who too often are wandering the streets, panhandling and sometimes becoming a menace to themselves and others.
Advocacy Center, March 20, 2012
Investigation Reveals Serious Neglect at Group Homes Across State
The Advocacy Center has released the results of a three year investigation into conditions at group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state. The report, “When A House Is Not A Home: An investigation into conditions, care, and treatment in select group homes for people with intellectual disabilities in Louisiana,” reveals that residents in the surveyed group homes live in dismal, unsanitary surroundings, they learn very little and have limited exposure to the community. These residents experience problems with receiving appropriate and timely health care, they face poor transportation opportunities, are provided with unhealthy and unappetizing meals and generally lead a life filled with meaningless daytime activities and no chance of employment. According to Lois Simpson, Advocacy Center Executive Director, “Thirty years ago, when group homes for people with disabilities, were first conceptualized, they were supposed to be family-like, comfortable environments where people with disabilities could live and be a part of the greater community. Instead, many of these homes exist as isolated, poorly maintained, inadequately staffed, and unsafe environments where people merely exist.”