Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Utah mother, her son's severe burns at a group home, and the Utah P&A's lack of response

October 18, 2007

Lieutenant Governor Gary R. Herbert
State Capitol Complex, Suite E220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Dear Lieutenant Governor Herbert:

I am writing to you to add my voice of complaint against the policies and practices of the Disability Law Center, Utah’s Protection and Advocacy Agency.  Their website states one of their priority issues for 2006-2009 is Abuse and Neglect. Under this heading, they further state as part of their Team Mission is to: “Investigate abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in residential facilities.”

In October, 2006 my son who has autism was severely burned in an accident at the group home where he was receiving services under the Home and Community Supports Waiver. He was left unattended in the kitchen and his rugby shirt caught fire on the gas stove. He was burned on his back across his waist and then up to his shoulder blades. The burns were assessed as second and third degree at the University Hospital Emergency Room. Enclosed [below] is a photo of my son’s back about six weeks after the initial burn. Shortly after this photo, a skin graft was performed over the raw area.

On May 16, 2007, my friend Tonya Garreaud and I took this issue and met with a woman at the Disability Law Center because we think this should not go unaddressed. We were summarily dismissed and told to “contact an attorney who handles personal injury cases.” We were told that the Disability Law Center only handles “systemic issues” to which I replied that I would consider any case of abuse and neglect as systemic.

My experience with this agency over the past twenty-five years plus is that they refuse to address issues of neglect that occur in the “community”. Their entire efforts have been to close residential services in institutions (Intermediate Care Facilities/Mental Retardation) and to promote and advocate for services only in the “community” (group homes, etc.).

I dare say if my son had been wounded at the Utah State Developmental Center of any of the Private ICF’s/MR the Disability Law Center would have filed a significant lawsuit and there would have been substantial negative publicity. I think we are ill-advised to spend taxpayer dollars to support any group with such deep bias as the Disability Law Center exhibits.

Please contact me if I can give you any further information.

With kindest regards,
Mary P. Paulsen

Philip's burn, November 2006