When nursing home abuse and neglect is suspected in Maine facilities – including those that provide care for vulnerable and disabled adults – it is expected that reports made to the Office of Aging and Disability Services will trigger an independent investigation by the state’s office of Adult Protective Services. However, it appears in a number of cases, that is not happening.
The Bangor Daily News reports that five separate health care providers in a four-county area came forward and shared their referral numbers with the paper. Collectively, there were more than 550 allegations of suspected nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation over a four-year span ending in 2015. However, APS had final reports for just 40 of those.
It’s not clear whether the state is simply choosing not to investigate accidents or if the internal standards have changed. What health care providers are telling journalists, however, is that while they continue to file their referrals as suspected cases of abuse arise, they rarely anymore receive reports back from the state about the outcome or even existence of an investigation.
The Developmental Services Oversight and Advisory Board in Maine, the agency that provides oversight for services extended to adults with autism or disabilities, has issued a statement expressing grave concern about the lack of responsiveness in these claims. In fact, when the board tried to contact state investigators to learn the status of specific complaints, calls simply went unanswered and were not returned. It’s the opinion of the board that state investigators have been overwhelmed and are unable to properly function in order to protect those whom they are bound by law to protect.
These issues can be traced all the way back to the mid-1970s, when a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of patients who were admitted to a state-run mental institution against their will. Poor conditions resulted in many residents spending much time half-dressed in large open rooms with no real individualized care. One staffer would be assigned to clean urine and feces off the floor. This all resulted in an order by a judge for the state to improve conditions, and ultimately the development of the advisory board.
Then, in 2010, a consent decree passed in 1994 requiring prioritization of health and care for adults with disabilities was lifted, after it was found the state had made a good faith effort to do this. At the time, the federal judge who lifted it said he understood the concerns that conditions could regress, and he urged advocates for those with disabilities to remain “forever vigilant.”
However, without access to information, the state’s advisory board is unable to review the state’s work and determine how much is being done – or isn’t being done. The state health department is bound to generate a report every two years regarding its services for adults with autism and intellectual disabilities. Based on the most recent report, it seems the state is accepting very few cases – 428 out of 1,300 referrals in 2015.
If you have a loved one whom you suspect has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect while in state care, it’s imperative to discuss your concerns with an experienced Bangor injury attorney. These could be a result of falls, medication errors, lack of hygiene services, or other types of improper care. We seek not only accountability but also the safety of your loved one as well as those who may in the future find themselves in the care of these facilities.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Investigations into the abuse of disabled adults in Maine have slowed, without explanation, Feb. 12, 2017, By Danielle McLean, Bangor Daily News
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