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Governor Hints At Oakwood 'Transition' As Facility Receives 20th Abuse Citation

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--While Governor Ernie Fletcher hinted last week at downsizing the Communities at Oakwood, a state report outlined details of an incident that led the state's largest institution housing adults with developmental disabilities to receive its 20th Type A citation -- the strongest that can be issued for abuse and neglect.

The May 9 incident, in which witnesses said a male resident was physically and verbally abused during a fishing outing, means that Liberty Healthcare will receive its first $10,000 fine since it took over operations at Oakwood last fall.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Inspector General's report found that one staff member called the resident a "f------ retard" as he kicked the man in the rear. When the man was on the ground, one staff member sat on top of him while others hit and kicked him in the stomach, head, nose and legs. Later, three staff members continued to push down on the man's nose to cause him "more pain." He was later treated for a fractured nose, multiple cuts and a bruised left eye.

Four staff members initially said the man had hurt himself during the trip. Several weeks passed before an anonymous tip prompted investigators to look more closely at the incident.

Steve Shannon, a deputy commissioner for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees Oakwood, told the Herald-Leader: "What's really disturbing is that some staff thought it was OK to interact with residents in this way."

A legislative panel has approved a four-month extension to Liberty's contract for $8.8 million, with the understanding that the contract could be terminated if conditions for Oakwood residents are not improved.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid threatened last fall to stop funding the facility, a move which state officials said would force the institution to close. The state is appealing that decision.

Last week, Fletcher said he is looking into partnering with other facilities to move some of the residents out of Oakwood, but he stopped short of calling for shutting down the facility, which houses about 260 people.

"Let's call what we are doing a transition," he said.

In the meantime, the state has sent letters to guardians of Oakwood residents asking them to contact state officials if they are concerned about the ongoing problems and would like their family members to move out of the facility

In a related story, a former Oakwood employee pleaded guilty Friday to a felony charge of wantonly abusing an adult, after admitting she dragged a female resident across a floor, struck her in the head with a shoe, and pushed her head into a wall in June 2003. The woman faces two years in prison when she is sentenced next month.

Also, a mistrial was called in the case of another former staff member who is accused of neglecting a resident who had cut and injured himself.

Fletcher considers Oakwood 'transition' (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Mistrial declared in Oakwood trial (The Courier-Journal)
Oakwood task force focuses on improving quality of life (Associated Press)
Federal funding at stake as state struggles to correct problems at Oakwood (The Courier-Journal)
Oakwood gets 20th Type A citation (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Communities at Oakwood (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

Copyright 2006 Inonit Publishing
Article reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express international disability rights news service. Please do not reprint, republish or forward without permission.


Another thing that is upsetting about this is that the State isn't pressing criminal assault and battery charges against the staff in the fishing incident. (perhaps they are, but if they are, why not mention that?) Since when is what they are doing not a criminal matter? Aren't criminal laws explicitly designed to protect people who need to be protected?

Apparently the biggest concern is whether or not the institution is good enough for the State to get federal dollars.

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