Saturday, March 16, 2013

Connecticut: Abuse and neglect in residential facilities

Disability Scoop, in an article by Michelle Diamont, "Senator Seeks Federal Probe of Group Homes", 3/6/13, reports that the U.S. Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy has asked for “an immediate investigation into the alarming number of deaths and cases of abuse of developmentally disabled individuals in group homes.”

The article says, "Specifically, Murphy urged Inspector General Daniel Levinson [in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] to focus on the 'prevalence of preventable deaths at privately run group homes across this nation,' citing increased privatization of residential services for those with disabilities in recent years."

It goes on to say, "The senator’s request comes in response to a recent series of articles in the Hartford Courant detailing cases of abuse and neglect of those with developmental disabilities at various residential facilities in Connecticut. The newspaper found that there were 76 deaths of those with developmental disabilities between 2004 and 2010 where officials cited abuse, neglect or medical errors…Murphy indicated that similar reports have emerged in recent years from Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana and Texas."

This article from the Hartford Courant, "Abuse, Neglect Cited As Factors In Deaths Of Dozens of Developmentally Disabled In State Care" By Josh Kovner, Matthew Kaufmann and Dave Altimari details the Hartford Connecticut Courant's findings in its investigation of abuse and neglect in the state's facilities for people with developmental disabilities, including public and private group homes, nursing homes, and institutions.

According to the article, "The Courant's review of state records associated with the more than 100 deaths revealed systemic flaws in the care of the developmentally disabled, ranging from breakdowns in nursing care to gaps in the training of staff to lapses in agency oversight….

"Developmentally disabled people were scalded to death in bathtubs; were fatally injured in falls while on medication that affected their balance; choked to death on solid food while on ground-food diets; died of illnesses despite showing symptoms for days or even months; and succumbed while being physically restrained...

"In 2001, a Courant investigation of deaths of intellectually disabled people in state care identified 36 cases from 1990 to 2000 in which abuse or neglect played a role in the death. The Courant found more than twice as many cases from 2004 to 2011, despite added oversight by the agency now known as the Department of Developmental Services. Now, budget pressures are further straining a system that many believe has reached its breaking point."

The article includes links to other articles in the series investigating the care of developmentally disabled people in Connecticut.

The VOR Weekly News Update from March 8, 2013 also covers the Disability Scoop story and provides this link to a blog from the Southbury Training School. The blog post urges the state of Connecticut to reconsider its decades-long decision to close admissions to the training school and to see STS as part of the solution to the current crisis in care in Connecticut:

"STS is a critically important state asset.  On its campus are group-home-style residences as well as medical and dental facilities that serve both its own residential population and many people in the community.  Those facilities are staffed by on-site doctors and nurses and by specialists who regularly visit the residents, most of whom have severe and profound levels of intellectual disability and complex medical conditions…

"In response to a court settlement in 2010, the state has stepped up its efforts to encourage guardians to move residents out of STS and into the community-based group-home system.  However, there is currently a waiting list for residential placements in that system that is conservatively estimated at more than 1,000.  There are not enough group homes for people who need them. 

"Anyone who agrees to leave STS will be moved quickly to any open or newly built community-based residence.   But that means that they are moved ahead of many other people developmental disabilities, who may have been waiting for years for a residential placement.

"The result is that ever larger numbers of people are being kept at home with inadequate care or are being placed in nursing homes, which state officials acknowledge do not have the staffing expertise to care for them. "

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