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.

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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.