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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

800 Employees Fired or Suspended Since 2004 For Abusing Disabled Patients In Texas

Since 2004 over 800 employees have been fired or suspended, because of abuse, from 13 of Texas' largest facilities for the mentally and developmentally disabled.
Texas has 13 large facilities which are called state schools or centers, and combined almost 5,000 mentally retarded or mentally ill residents live full-time with round-the-clock care. According to data compiled by United Cerebral Palsy, for the purpose of comparison, New York and California together only house 4,600 in 17 different facilities.

The Associated Press (AP) sent an open records request to the Department of Aging and Disability Services and the results they received were astounding.

In the fiscal year of 2007, 239 employees were fired for neglect, abuse or exploitation of mentally and developmentally disabled patients.

According to the records obtained by the AP in 2006 there were 200 disciplinary actions for like abuses and in 2005 there were 203, and in 2004 there were 180.

The revelations come a month after Gov. Rick Perry's office confirmed that the civil rights department at the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating allegations of abuse and neglect at the Denton State School, the state's largest with about 650 residents. It's at least the second such investigation into state facilities, including one at the Lubbock State School in 2006 that revealed widespread abuse.

Last April the Denton facility underwent a comprehensive inspection and the school was cited 25 times for failing to meet federal standards.

Those citations included;

Failure to "ensure clients' rights were protected, including the right to be free from abuse, neglect and mistreatment";

Failure to "have or to use policies and procedures that prohibit mistreatment, neglect or abuse of clients";

Failure to "have evidence to show that all allegations of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment were thoroughly investigated".

A more recent inspection found that the Denton state school had also failed to educate direct care staff on basic first aid, health, and emergency needs.

Governor Perry was notified in March that the Justice Department would be investigating the Denton state school because of these types of abuses registered and the AP obtained a copy of the letter and it said that the investigation, "will focus on protection of residents from harm; medical and nursing care; habilitation and treatment; and the failure to place residents in the most integrated setting as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act ... ."

Although only 239 employees were fired in 2007, the records indicate that there were 450 incidents of verified abuse or neglect for that fiscal year and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigated 3,500 allegations at schools around the state.

The confirmed incidents showed that 51 percent of those were for neglect, 31 percent involved physical abuse and 16 percent was foe emotional or verbal abuse. Less than 1 percent of the investigations found sexual abuse.

According to what state officials have admitted to, at least 3 deaths have occurred in these state schools since 2002, to which abuse or neglect by caretakers was a factor.

In statement obtained from Jeff Garrison-Tate, who is the president of "Community Now", he says that this report and these figures, "indicates to me that there is clearly a culture of abuse or neglect in these facilities."

Garrison-Tate goes on to say he has personally witnessed some of these abuses on the disable residents and he believes that only the worse cases result in firings and suspensions and he concludes with, "The bottom line is people are getting really injured, and they are not safe."

The mentally disabled are helpless to protect themselves and one lawmaker, John Zerwas, a member of a legislative committee studying state schools, thinks that lawmakers need to look into these allegations of abuse to protect those receiving care in these facilities.