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Independent Expert To Investigate Institution Deaths
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2005

BREMERTON, WASHINGTON--Bremerton Police are investigating two deaths over the past three months at Frances Haddon Morgan Center, a state-run institution housing about 56 people with autism and other disabilities.

The Kitsap County coroner ruled earlier this month that Kristina M. Shannon, 29, died on July 2 of an acute overdose of the antihistamine chlorpheniramine.

Dennis Shannon told the Seattle Times that the coroner found his daughter had ingested 5 1/2 times the normal dose of the antihistamine, which can cause drowsiness and seizures in large doses. Mr. Shannon said that his daughter could not have taken the drug on her own.

Shannon's death was not reported to police until after the September 4 death of Jenny A. Jessup, 27. The coroner was still waiting for toxicology results, but said Jessup's death appeared to be from natural causes.

Despite Department of Social and Health Services policy that requires unexplained or suspicious deaths at such facilities to be reported to police, the institution's superintendent, Carol Kirk, said Shannon's death was not reported earlier because it was not considered unexplained nor suspicious until Jessup's death.

DSHS, which operates the residential habilitation center (RHC) through its Division of Developmental Disabilities, has hired Northwest Autopsy Services, of nearby Sumner, Washington to perform an independent forensic investigation into the deaths.

Kirk said the independent expert was brought in because the coroner's report didn't match the institution's medical records.

In 1999, a U.S. Department of Justice reported cited FHMC for over-medicating residents to control their behaviors, along with a lack of expertise in dealing with autism, and failure to prevent and investigate incidents of self-abuse.

On a related note, long-time pro-institution lobbyist Dave Wood told the Seattle Times that he quit last week because he can no longer support keeping FHMC open, adding that the deaths "should raise a very high level of alarm."

"DSHS investigating 2 deaths" (Seattle Times)
"DSHS hires independent expert to investigate two deaths at Frances Haddon Morgan Center" (DSHS)


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