Group homes operator accused of abuse, neglect

State will try to close Balto. County nonprofit

July 27, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

State health inspectors are seeking to shut down a Baltimore County operator of group homes for the mentally disabled, saying it abused and neglected residents and can't account for their money.

The state Office of Health Care Quality will make the case at a hearing today that the state must immediately move the 30 residents of group homes run by Parkville-based Netcon & Earthkins Inc. because of safety hazards.

The nonprofit organization operates 13 group homes in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties. Its executive director, Christian Duru, did not immediately return phone calls last night.

Among the allegations detailed by the state in a charging document and inspection reports:

A resident who had fallen out of bed and fractured a leg bone was left crying and screaming on the floor in pain for two hours, as staff members incorrectly assumed she was having a "behavioral episode." The resident was not taken to the emergency room until 12 hours after the incident occurred.

Because of the operator's failure to provide adequate supervision, a mentally disabled convicted sex offender and pedophile conditionally released to its care has run away 47 times since July 2003, posing a danger to himself and the public.

To control a 24-year-old mentally disabled woman having an outburst, an employee threw her down on the floor and held her face down with her knee in the resident's back. The employee then called the woman an obscenity and encouraged two other residents to hit her while she was on the floor.

Inspectors found no system to account for residents' money. In one case, a resident's paychecks went uncashed for years, becoming unredeemable. There were no financial records at all for several residents.

A resident in fragile health had to be hospitalized after receiving medications discontinued by his physician. An inspector reviewed five residents' medical files and found medication errors in all five.

The charging document also alleged a failure to discipline staff members involved in misusing residents' money and to report incidents to the state.

Diane Coughlin, the director of the state Developmental Disabilities Administration, which funds the homes, is scheduled to preside over today's hearing.

After a hearing last week, Coughlin revoked the license of another group home operator, Baltimore-based Autumn Homes, ordering it to cease operations by Aug. 31. The key issue was the company's failure to obtain recommended medical and dental care for residents.

The Office of Health Care Quality says the state cannot allow Netcon & Earthkins to stay in business any longer.

Autumn Homes was the first operator of group homes for the mentally disabled to lose its license in two years. In a system with 180 providers, the disabilities administration has revoked licenses five other times since 1997.

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