Carlton Palms — a Florida home for people with severe disabilities beset by rapes, rats and abuse — officially shut its doors over the weekend, state officials announced.

The last of its 190 residents moved to a new community-based home over the weekend after years of abuse, violence and death perennially plagued the institution.

“Carlton Palms has officially closed,” said Barbara Palmer, who heads the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. “We have successfully transitioned nearly 200 people from an institutional placement into community homes. With this very important move for these individuals, we believe everyone will be much happier, healthier and have an opportunity to thrive in their communities.”

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Carlton Palms, run by Bellwether Behavioral Health, was the only Central Florida institution licensed to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and severe behavioral challenges. Over the the last several months, residents have transitioned into smaller, community homes selected by their parents or guardians. Some moved back to their homes in Florida, others, out of state.

Bellwether could not be reached for comment.

The transition has been difficult, as Florida lacked both the group homes capable of supervising residents with extremely complex behavioral needs and the money to develop them.

In May, a few months after the beating-death of a 26-year-old resident, APD officials took part in the agency’s most concrete action in several years — they went to went to court seeking what is called a “receivership,” the appointment of a new leadership team to oversee the home.

The selected receiver, Guardian Healthcare, took over the day-to-day operations until Monday, which is when the receivership was set to terminate.

“Bellwether sold its two six-bed group homes that were in operation in Florida and relinquished its four unopened homes,” APD said in a statement. “All of these behavioral group homes are now being operated by Attain of Orlando.”

In recent years, APD secured an agreed moratorium on new residents, insisted on the installation of extensive video monitoring and brought in an outside monitoring and transition team.

APD leaders say a regional team will monitor all residents who have transitioned out of Carlton Palms “to ensure all their needs are met. Additional services will be put in place if a person has a new behavioral need.”

© 2018 The Miami Herald
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