Connecticut Pulls Disabled From Site of Alleged Beatings
Terrence Macy, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services, said he was “outraged” watching video that police describe as footage of two autistic patients being beaten at the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation.
Macy said his department doesn’t plan to make any further placements at FINR and is taking steps to withdraw four of the 10 patients it already has sent to the facility in rural Wauchula, Florida. Last week, investigators from three state agencies conducted a surprise inspection of the treatment center, without disclosing what they found.
Wayne J. Miller, an attorney for closely held FINR, said the patients slated to leave the facility “have vastly improved as a result of the care they were given at FINR and are now well enough to be transferred to a facility in Connecticut that provides a lower level of care.” He said FINR has been working with Connecticut officials for a “few months” on the discharge of those patients.
Connecticut is responsible for certain disabled and mentally ill patients under laws entitling them to adequate care.
“Watching the video, I saw things that were reprehensible to me and horrific and would never be tolerated in this state,” Macy said.
In one video recorded last year, 21-year-old autistic patient Danny Silva sits on a couch between two large male staffers who punch, elbow and slap him at least 30 times.
The video was taken by a third employee using a mobile phone, according to police, and posted online last month by Bloomberg News. The two staffers have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of abuse.
Melinda Jakobowski, a mentally ill patient sent to Wauchula by Connecticut, died at a Tampa hospital last year after she was found unresponsive in her room at FINR. Investigations by Florida regulators determined that staff members failed to watch Jakobowski as required, including one who slept on the job.
The state will step up monitoring of Connecticut patients who remain at FINR, Macy said.
Asked whether he was confident the individuals his agency has placed in Florida are safe, Macy said, “not completely.” He said FINR is the “best we can do until we can create opportunities here with the best supports possible.”
The Wauchula firm is one of the largest U.S. centers for treating brain-injured patients, according to competitors. Some of its 196 beds have been filled by other types of patients.
In addition to the 10 patients sent to FINR by Macy’s agency, five others were placed there by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, according to the department.
Silva is one of the patients sent to Florida by Macy’s agency, according to James McGaughey, the executive director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities in Connecticut. Macy said privacy rules prevented him from confirming whether Silva is one of his agency’s cases.
It may take several months to return the four patients to Connecticut, Macy said. A company in the state that provides disabled care offered to take a fifth FINR patient after watching the video of alleged abuse, he said, although it hasn’t been determined whether the program is appropriate for the patient.
Macy said patients were sent out of state because Connecticut doesn’t have the resources to treat all of its residents with severe behavioral problems. His agency will change the way it oversees care at FINR to make it more effective, he said, declining to elaborate.
The total cost of treating the 10 patients placed by his agency is $1.9 million a year, Macy said.
A spokesman for the mental health department, James Siemianowski, said it had planned to bring one of its five clients back to Connecticut because his condition improved. That individual elected to stay at FINR and complete an educational program, Siemianowski said.
He said the agency maintains a “high level of oversight” of the patients at FINR.
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