Ten-Year Abuse Probe Leads To Federal Settlement With Louisiana
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA--The U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Governor's Office filed a settlement in federal court Monday, stemming from a decade-long investigation into unsafe conditions for residents of the state's two largest institutions housing people with developmental disabilities.
In 1994, federal investigators began looking into allegations that the civil rights of residents at Pinecrest Developmental Center were being violated. Two years later, they began investigating similar claims at Hammond Developmental Center.
According to a DOJ statement, during its investigation the Department found evidence that residents were being neglected and both physically and verbally abused by institution staff. Specifically, investigators discovered that staff members dragged one resident across the carpet, causing abrasions; kicked a resident; placed a blanket over a resident's head and then hit him; slapped another resident on the head and put a rag over her nose and mouth; and pulled a resident's hair with such force that her head jerked from one side of the pillow to the other.
Additionally, the investigation revealed that staff at Hammond left residents without appropriate supervision until after they had soiled, drooled or vomited on themselves. The institutions also provided inadequate medical care, psychology and training services, and failed to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate for individual residents.
In recent months local police have arrested some Pinecrest staff workers and brought criminal charges stemming from confirmed physical or verbal abuse of facility residents.
Under the terms of the agreement, filed with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, an independent expert will monitor the conditions at the two institutions, along with the state's compliance with the agreement.
The state will improve practices to meet the basic care needs of the residents; provide a safe and humane environment for residents with zero tolerance for abuse and neglect of residents; provide adequate medical and dental care, nursing services, nutritional and physical support including therapy and communication supports, psychological and behavioral services, and psychiatric care; and ensure that residents are free from undue bodily restraint.
Louisiana will also provide community-based options for institution residents and make sure that each is served in the "most integrated setting" according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.