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Senator Seeks Federal Probe Of Group Homes

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A U.S. senator is calling for a federal investigation into abuse and deaths of individuals with developmental disabilities at group homes nationwide.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general this week, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., asked for “an immediate investigation into the alarming number of deaths and cases of abuse of developmentally disabled individuals in group homes.”

Specifically, Murphy urged Inspector General Daniel Levinson 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.

Many services currently provided by privately-run facilities are paid for by federal dollars through Medicaid, Murphy said.

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.

Most of those who died lived in privately-run facilities, the newspaper reported.

Murphy indicated that similar reports have emerged in recent years from Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana and Texas.

“Sadly, these deaths were not without some warning signs. While many private providers are providing excellent care there are too many examples of bad actors,” Murphy wrote in his letter. “Clearly, these individuals deserved better from our developmental disability care system.”

Advocates from The Arc of Connecticut praised Murphy’s effort to spur an investigation, but said that any probe should look at all locations where individuals with disabilities live including state-run facilities and family settings in addition to private residences.

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Comments (20 Responses)

  1. Gregory Doan, MSW says:

    I applaud the Senator for his recognition that a number of individuals with disabilities are living in environments that do not meet their needs. I would like to add that I too believe that the scope of the investigation should include state run facilities, families and host home providers. While I do not see the same crisis level here in Colorado, antectdotally, there seems to be at a minimum, violations of personal rights occuring regularly.

  2. holly says:

    I guess its good that community mental health (MOKA, HOPE NETWORK) in west michigan has refused my daughter services (by not ever following through) so many times. Seriously thoe we have known for a long time these non-profits and many others see money signs off the backs of the disabled. Medicaid pays alot of money into these so called places and whoes to complain. I do know there are many good people and places that do the best they can do. Most of these others that are ran by corperations make huge amnts of money. It will take some time but I do hope they are shut down. I was told recently by a Community supports coordinator supervisor that this is the system and can do nothing about it (concerning my own situation). I will continue to fight. I thank the senator for trying.
    Sincerely,
    mom of disabled young adult in West Mich

  3. Gretchen Wilson says:

    Thank you. There are too many group homes in the business for the clients.

  4. Dee Wheat says:

    As a disability advocate I could tell you things that would curl your hair and straighten it back out more than once. I actually had to threaten a group home corporate owner with kidnapping charges when he transferred one of my clients to another facility and refused to allow me to call her or her to call me….all because I caught him lying to the Fire Marshall….FOR THREE YEARS! I finally told him that I knew about his prison record and revocation of his license to practice law for theft from his clients and that if my client was not on the phone with me telling me she was back where she wanted to be by midnight, he would have bologna sandwiches for lunch because I would have his sorry a$$ locked up. She called me at 11:45 when they got her back.

  5. Melinda says:

    Thank you Senator Chris Murphy! I am a parent of a disabled child that WAS staying in a private run facility . It was a nightmare. She was routinely dirty, had no clean clothes when we would get her for the weekends, and often came home with bruises and black eyes. When we would go to see her at the facility her room was often dirty, and rain leaked into her room when it would rain, drafty and cold in the winter. So basically we were having to check on her through the week and bringing her home on the weekends for her safety from the weekend staff that were degenerates. She lacked communication skills to tell us whom was abusing her and when we reported it, the staff retaliated and took it out on our daughter! Thank God someone is going to do something about all these facilities abusing the disabled. They are in it for a profit not for the good of the client. I agree there are a very few good facilities, but they are far out weighed by the bad ones. I wish a Senator in Mississippi would do the same and demand an investigation as well. Due to our current Sequester I doubt if we can expect any extra dollars to be going out for an investigation for the disabled.

  6. terry turner says:

    I have been trying to fight to get custody of my brother living in a group home for years. He was placed there three years ago after our mom passed away. DDDS want give me guardianship. Is there anyone out there that can help me? My brother really wants to be with his familly, he is fifthy.

  7. Betsy says:

    Thank you to this Senator. My son was neglected at a group home. He was left alone without supervision whille his caregiver was out getting a DUI while she should have been working. My son and the other resident are both high elopement risks and lived only 4 blocks from a major 12 lane highway. My son has severe autism, is non verbal, doesn’t respond to his name, has no safety awareness and can run like any healthy 22 year old. We couldn’t press charges because nothing happen to my son although my son and the other resident could have died because of this caregiver’s neglect. Because of the 16,000 plus individuals of PAs waitlists for a consolidated waiver, we were unable to take him home with us and keep him safe because we would lose his funding and there we no other group home he could transfer to for months. Although my son is still to far from home we are thankful that he now is in an excellent home with wonderful caregivers. Thank you to all the people in our government that are listening and helping with this large problem. We should be protecting all individuals against neglect and abuse.

  8. Barb says:

    Seriously, the Senator needs to look at the state run group homes in New York State before looking at the not-for-profits. The state gets more money to run them, and has more problems with violations than the not-for-profits.

  9. Mary Ashland says:

    The real solution is for these senators to put their money where their mouth is. People working in these facilities have a very tough job. I am a mother of two children with Autism. My older son has severe behavior and communication issues. The government is just giving us lip service by “looking in to” these problems. For some reason no one wants to properly fund services for adults with disabilities. Basic things like dental insurance stop when my son turns 21. Of course no one should be abusive to these people but the government themselves are the real abusers because they don’t fund programs for adults with disabilities. Instead of cookie cutter programs which put the money in the pockets of bureaucrats who pretend to manage these programs at the government level as well as the agencies who provide horrible service, the money should be filtered down to families so they can better manage the care of their family members and meet the needs of the individual. this wld eliminate some of the red tape and money going to the pockets of the middlemen.

  10. vmgillen says:

    We learn that the medical model for disability objectifies people – let’s take a look at the capitalist model! To either stretch limited dollars (the non-profits/state run operations) or maximize profits, the lowest-paid direct-care workers are responsible for very, very vulnerable populations. Lowpaid usually means powerless, in or society – and powerless people try to correct their lack of power in inappropriate (to put it mildly) ways…

  11. Beth says:

    My husband and I are in litagation with a “Well-Known National Non-Profit Organization” for abuse and neglect of our adult daughter. We have been threatened with “Defamation of Character” lawsuit from the CEO if we speak out about this case. Our attorney tells us that we would win this threatened lawsuit, but advises that we wait until AFTER the case is taken to court to speak out. Our daughter’s life has changed, she not only has profound autism but now has permanent physical damages that will be with her the rest of her life! THE STATE WE LIVE IN DID NOTHING ABOUT THIS!!!! I will spend the rest of my life exposing the abuse and neglect of our loved ones!!!! It’s time that this problem is recognized before other helpless individuals are abused, raped and murdered!!!!

  12. pandiecats says:

    Thank you and I encourage and welcome investigations. Many vulnerable people die due to negligence but no one knows because unless someone asks for an investigation. All residential and supported living arrangements should have oversight and investigations and caregivers need to be held responsible for negligent deaths.

    One issue which was raised in the Hartford Courant was that of medication errors. Nurse delegation is a system that is set up which supposedly provides training to non-medical caregivers to administer medications under the supposed guidance of a registered nurse. This program is necessary to help reduce costs but the problem is that in many, many homes there is no nurse delegation or medical caregiver providing medication. Medication is self-administered by the person with ID/DD with hand-over-hand assistance by an untrained caregiver. This unsafe practice needs to be stopped.

    In our state we hear that the community ICF/ID offers the same level of care that the state operated ICF/ID does. This is far from the truth. When looking at the certification evaluations documents of the supported living agencies, very few have nurse delegation or have a licensed nurse on staff. This indicates that the residents in these homes self-medicate.

  13. Lucien Willocks says:

    Investigating agencies that have abuse and neglect histories regardless of their funding source or housing model should be a given. That being said the goverment should try to fix the problem before it becomes one. Noone should have to suffer before something can be done. Federal funding continues to be cut at an alarming rate and better care and services are expected. I for one have no idea how this is supposed to work. Those agencies out there that are doing good work are struggleing to provide the services that their clients deserve while trying to figure out a way to keep their doors open. In Colorado group home environments for the DD population are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In my City we are oneof two agencies that can still afford to have them at all. They definately do not support themselves, in our case we off set the cost with other housing models and philanthropy. We are doing whatever we can to keep them open since some of our clients thrive in that type of environment. The DD population as a whole is suffering in this country and the system needs more than a few minor fixes. There is wasted funding at every turn and it is hard to provide our clients with the care and support they need and deserve because the whole system has aspects of it that are poorly set up. These individuals deserve more than an investigation once they have suffered, they deserve to not have to suffer in the first place.

  14. Kathy says:

    In New York, we need to stop the privatization of our state-run group homes! Many of our DDSO’s are being closed! We are trying to maintain individual’s homes, care and choice by keeping the state operated homes OPEN! Many of us direct support care givers that work for the state will lose our jobs and the medically frail individuals we care for will be transferred to homes that cannot care for them properly!

  15. ann masotti says:

    My daughter is high functioning Autistic…Unfortunately, behaviour problems forced me to place her in private group homes (over six states and all terrible for one reason or another)….the worst state being New York, where we were residents..State facilities are unsafe due to the lack of education the in-house workers have. They are lowpaid for these reasons and have very low threshholds of patience and ability. At great monthly cost, we placed her at a private program in Texas. There we encountered the worst form of abuse…the promise of hope and the utter disregard for the client, both physically and emotionally. We were simply lied to. Across the country, the places we encountered are both businesses and warehouses….the client gets very little personalized care. Therapy sessions lump everyone together, regardless of their challenges…in some cases family involvement is discouraged. Unfortunately, there is also very little regulation over these facilities. In Chicago, when I withdrew my daughter from a program, we found out that the owners were operating out of Florida and one was a felon and had faced criminal charges. If the Government wants to truly DO something, expand the ADA to cast a wide net and criminalize any and all employees guilty of abuse and owners who allow the abuse. Start with the Judge Rothenberg Home in Massachusetts which has used torturous disciplinary “methods” on the patients. Families with loved ones there have been complaining for years, yet no one from the State appears willing to investigate. Federal law is in place and should monitor more than ramps and parking spaces. There is an unbelievable amount of money being made from victimizing the helpless. Often family members are not tuned in, so defeated from the ongoing worry and heartache of mental illness. It would be my suggestion for each and every caregiver to obtain guardianship of their loved one; this will allow access to the patient without HIPPA gettng in the way. Visit, and often, if possible…ask questions, observe the surroundings and the other patients’ conditions. Advocate and Advocate some more. Possibly call the local newspapers and ask them to investigate….that’s working in NY….it’s sad, but nothing will get better if we don’t do something to bring the issues to the forefront. Sen. Murphy has made a giant step here, thank God.

  16. Joseph Branske says:

    Its commendable that Senator Murphy is trying to correct this travesty. The unfortunate thing is for decades investigating agencies do the dumist thing. They take the time to fore warn the hospital/care center/ or home that they are coming. I’d be willing to bet 80-90% cover up or eliminate any problems prior to their arrival. Once again the problem doesn’t get solved. This country( Medicare/medicaid/private insurance) waste millions of dollars each year doing useless investigations due to this problem. I’ve been in medicine 42 years and the tricks these investigators fall for is deplorable. First thing is look the residents in the eye. They’ll tell you a story you won’t believe. Most places are not infected/contagious. So go in eyes open,. ask residents first, then check with the staff, someone knows the real stories. Good Luck.

  17. Fran says:

    Don’t know if this video will post here or not but this is what happened to my 15 year old grandson in a State run facility. He would be dead now as he was strangled until all life left his body and if there hadn’t been someone in the home that knew cpr we would no longer have our precious boy. Now to add insult to injury, the 3 people who were arrested for this are having a pre-trial on the 22nd of May to see if they can plea to lesser offences. This makes me sick to my stomach. The 3 of them should have been charged with attempted murder.

  18. Almaz Mekonnen says:

    I am very pleased and grateful that I run into this article. My niece, who is developmentally, challenged currently lives in a group home in San Diego.

    Her gradual isolation from family, friends and the world outside, conserns me a great. I am very, very suspicious that something is going on. However, being unable to clearly document the problem, makes me feel overwhelmingly powerless. Not only is she showing gradual signs of isolation, but also social and emotional decline. I’m not diagnosing her. Just stating my opinion based what I have observed and discerned.

  19. Ruth Flynn says:

    As a citizen of MASS and guardian of my developmentally disabled son who resides in a group home in Mass, along with several sources at state and federal level (Ma DDS and Senator Warren’s office) we have exhausted our efforts to get verification from the state of RI in terms of verifying that my adult grandson who resides in a group home under the care of RI Division of developmental Disabilities has been contacted. It has been made clear that I am not requesting information consistent with confidentiality or privacy. . I just want verification that he has been properly informed that his father and grandmother requested that he be informed that we would like to hear from him. In the meantime I’m suspicious that something is wrong given it is factual information (via media) that he was missing a few years ago.

    Ruth Flynn

  20. Susan Shaw says:

    ResCare is the worst. They are an international, for-profit company that already has been convicted of Medicaid fraud in Texas. The clients do not bathe, wesr clean clothes or take care of personal hygiene. They are fed tons of carbs and processed convenience foods. They are cooped up in the house all weekend and on holidays. The staff routinely bad-mouths the parents and guardians in front of clients, in some kind of weird power struggle for loyalty. They make their own decisions on what meds to give, regardless of what the doctor says. They keep running out of food at the houses, but they are buying up small agencies all over. They are despicable.

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