The METO Settlement
Steve Larson: What Went Wrong?
Steve Larson: Well, as the years went on, the facility became more isolated from the community and eventually what happened is that a family contacted an Arc advocate and said that they were concerned about an abuse situation for their son.
And, as that was further investigated, it turned out that they were using handcuffs on him. And this individual, this Arc advocate, then referred the family to the Ombudsman's Office for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, and they investigated the situation and found out that it was not only this individual, but it was two-thirds of the individuals that lived at—currently or formerly—at the METO program that had been restrained, either using handcuffs, metal handcuffs, or using sometimes leg shackles, or putting people in seclusion for long periods of time.
And so, as they investigated, they found out that this was a system-wide problem and that a culture had developed in which this type of behavior and treatment of individuals was acceptable. What they did was they did not inform individuals with disabilities about their rights. They used intimidation in order to silence people so that they wouldn't report these types of issues. When they met with county social workers or licensers, they didn't share the information about the types of restraints they were doing with handcuffs and the seclusion that they were doing. So they kept it a secret. A culture developed in which these types of restraints and behaviors were acceptable, and one way that that was perpetuated is that people were too intimidated by the staff there to share the experiences they were having or they thought they would be punished in one way or another.