State Closes Facilities In Wake Of Fire Deaths
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 19, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI--The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has ordered the closure of four facilities operated by Joplin River of Life Ministries, Inc., following the November 27 fire at Anderson Guest House that killed 10 people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
The announcement came on December 15, one day after Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the company seeking millions of dollars in damages.
Investigators say that 62-year-old Robert Joseph DuPont, who was convicted three years ago for his part in a scheme to defraud the federal Medicare program, was operating River of Life illegally.
"Mr. DuPont's involvement is in violation of state law and is grounds for license denial," said state health director Jane Drummond in a written statement.
According to the Associated Press, pulling the company's license means the facilities would have to close by January 5. The state said it would work with families and guardians of residents to find other places for them to live.
Officials with the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Mental Health acknowledged last week that a gap in their regulatory oversight may have kept on-site inspectors from knowing that DuPont was banned from operating the facilities.
Investigators concluded that faulty wiring was probably responsible for the fire that killed nine residents and one staff member of Anderson Guest House, which housed 32 people.
All of the victims died of smoke inhalation, including 19-year-old Glen Taff, the staff member who has been called a hero because he repeatedly ran into the burning building to rescue residents.
The deaths prompted Governor Matt Blunt to order the departments "to immediately assess and review all safety laws and regulations related to residential care facilities".
"Red flags went unnoticed at group home that burned" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)