Report details abuse, neglect, and cruelty in WV behavioral homes

West Virginia

CHARLESTON WV (WOWK) — The system that works with some of West Virginia’s most vulnerable residents is broken and needs to be fixed.

A report detailing the problems was made public this week at the Legislative Oversight for Health and Human Resources Committee.

In the 9-page report by the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, details about abuse at group homes come to light.

Just the first three listed are shocking: A 19-year-old consumed unsecured antifreeze and did not receive outside medical attention for upwards of 12 hours, even after repeatedly telling staff she was not feeling well.

A patient was repeatedly sprayed with a water hose outside of his residence and in full view of his neighbors by staff for noncompliance.

A patient who was a child was able to obtain the keys to a facility vehicle and died in a fiery crash.

The list of grievances goes on. There are nearly 100 of them.

There are incidents of molestation, technical and staff failures, and cruel restraint.

Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone), a Doctor who sits on the interim committee says he was angered to hear the report.

“My other feeling was, are we just seeing the tip of the iceberg here, can this be more widespread?”

Stollings says it’s the most vulnerable population of West Virginians we’re talking about.

“These folks are special needs kids and special needs people that really need that love and extra care,” he said.

Senator Richard Lindsay (D-Kanawha), a medical malpractice lawyer, also points to cuts in the state health department’s budget — approximately $150 million in 2018 and has remained flat since.

“By the testimony of director Jolyn Marra, she doesn’t have enough individuals to go around to these homes and make sure that they’re providing care and regulated care to all of these individuals,” said Lindsay.

In a statement to 13 News, DHHR communications director Allison Adler said, “Complaints are regularly investigated and when appropriate, penalties are assessed. To this point, penalties have included admission bans, reduction in the census, additional provider reporting, and increased survey presence. DHHR will continue working with all stakeholders to provide quality healthcare for all individuals.”

Lindsay says he hopes to tackle this issue in the next legislative session–if not before then because people can’t wait.

“A parent of an intellectually disabled child said my worst fear is that I’m going to die, not because I fear for my own life, but where my child will go,” he said.

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