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State Suspends Dozens Of Institution Staff, And Fires Four, Over Abuse Claims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 12, 2004

BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, MISSOURI--The state of Missouri has fired four employees and disciplined four others in the midst of investigations into abuse and neglect at Bellefontaine Habilitation Center, an institution housing people with mental disabilities.

Anne Deaton, director of the Missouri Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that 47 other employees have been suspended with pay while more allegations are being investigated.

The names of the four fired employees will go onto a list that will prevent them from working again with seniors or people with disabilities in the state.

The disciplinary actions come after the death of one resident and the apparent beatings of two others at BHC earlier this year.

Theresa Krader, 15, was discovered with black eyes and a face that her father described as "swollen like a watermelon" in March. Krader was alone with two Bellefontaine workers when she was injured.

Dawn Kirkendall, 25, was hospitalized in July, also with swollen, black eyes.

George Holmes, 33, died on August 4. Workers and state officials said immediately after his death that he slipped and fell, and had a heart attack. A medical examiner later said the evidence was not consistent with the staff reports.

Holmes had called his stepmother a few hours before his death, complaining that he was being beaten by the staff.

Local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are looking into the incidents to determine whether criminal charges ought to be filed.

Deaton announced last week that she is retiring at the end of the year. While she claimed that she is leaving to spend more time with her family, she noted that this year has been particularly difficult because of the abuse charges.

"When you have a death and then allegations of abuse connected to that death, that is a very, very difficult situation," she said.

Deaton said the state would be sending 56 new workers to BHC to help relieve the staff that is now short by at least 55 employees.

An editorial in Tuesday's Post-Dispatch criticized the state for not being more open about the investigations.

"They [the residents] have a right to live free from the fear of abuse and neglect," the opinion piece read. "That won't happen until the state agency responsible for protecting them becomes more alert and more transparent."

Related:
"Editorial: Abuse of Trust" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Statements regarding the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center (Missouri Department of Mental Health)

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