New Report Says Matthew Goodman Was Not Neglected
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 19, 2003
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY--An investigation by New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services released last week has concluded that Matthew Goodman, 14, was not medically neglected, nor did his treatment in a non-profit institution cause his death one year ago.
The DYFS report is in such sharp contrast with one done six months ago by the Division of Developmental Disabilities that officials with the state's Department of Human Services want to see if DYFS did a "thorough and complete" investigation.
Matthew, who had autism, was a resident at The Lindens, an institution for youths with developmental disabilities run by Bancroft Neurohealth Inc. of Haddonfield, New Jersey. He died at a nearby hospital on February 6, 2002 of pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and a blood infection.
Matthew's parents claim that the excessive use of restraints and heavy medication at Lindens weakened his immune system. They pointed to evidence that Matthew was placed in restraints for hours at a time -- even overnight -- along with a medical report that showed the teen lost 23 pounds in the final six days of his life.
The DDD investigation last summer concluded that Matthew had been abused and neglected in the month before he died, but it did not connect that mistreatment with his death. Last month, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office determined after its own investigation that Bancroft was not criminally responsible for his death.
"These were two different investigations, all under the umbrella of the Department of Human Services, that were totally different," said Janice Roach, Matthew's mother. "I'm just stunned." Roach has been advocating for "Matthew's Law" a measure that would ban the use of restraints except in emergency situations.
Assistant Human Services Commissioner Arburta Jones, who oversees the Department of Human Services' new Program Integrity and Accountability Office, last week ordered an investigation into the DYFS report because it differs so much from the DDD report.
Pam Ronan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said one problem was that DDD used Bancroft's own guidelines and standards, while DYFS used the state definition of abuse and neglect.
Matthew's death prompted Assemblyman Eric Munoz to co-sponsor a measure that would have eliminated the use of restraints to punish people with disabilities in private and public facilities. The language in the bill was rejected last month by a legislative committee and substituted with much more lenient guidelines.