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Oakwood Director Leaves As More Staff Are Arrested On Abuse Charges
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 28, 2006

SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--In the past two weeks, eight staff members of Kentucky's largest state-run institution have been arrested, suspected of abusing residents that have mental disabilities.

Four employees of Communities at Oakwood were arrested June 19 on abuse charges for an incident that allegedly happened during a May 9 fishing trip. The Attorney General's office said that a resident "sustained multiple cuts and bruises in addition to a fractured nose".

Staff had originally blamed the injuries on "self injurious behavior".

On June 26, the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation arrested four more workers for allegedly beating a resident with a broomstick. The staff were also charged with felony abuse of an adult for the incidents that investigators said took place on May 9 and June 6.

Since 2004, a total of 15 Oakwood staff members have been arrested and charged with abuse or neglect at the facility, which houses 260 adults.

If the most recent allegations are found to be true, the facility could face its 19th "Type A" citation -- the strongest that can be issued for abuse and neglect -- since January 2005. That could also mean a $10,000 fine for Liberty Healthcare Corp. of Philadelphia, which was brought in last November to correct the problems at Oakwood.

Last Friday, Bob Ritz resigned as Oakwood's director, citing health reasons for his departure. He had been on the job since February.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services said that Jacqueline Bouyea would be taking Ritz' job. According to the Herald-Leader, Bouyea had been Oakwood's project manager since February. She has worked as the director of the Division of Aging in the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, and was superintendent of Indiana's Muscatatuck State Development Center, which closed last year.

Bouyea tried to reassure Oakwood employees and relatives of residents that she has not been hired to shut down the facility, which the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid threatened last fall to stop funding.

Last week, the Cabinet appointed a nine-member task force to focus on intermediate and long-term planning for Oakwood. The panel consists of mental retardation professionals and advocates, along with Oakwood employees and parents of residents, the Herald-Leader reported.

Maureen Fitzgerald, director of the state Division of Protection and Advocacy, said: "It's just kind of a waste of time," she said.

"If a group needs to get together, it should be charged with coming up with a transition plan for closing that place."

"Oakwood workers face abuse charges" (Courier-Journal)
"Task force created to stabilize Oakwood" (Herald-Leader)
"Oakwood director quits for health reasons" (Herald-Leader)
"Abuse charges mount at Oakwood" (Courier-Journal)
"Communities at Oakwood" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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