Eight former caregivers of mentally disabled residents at facilities in Somerset and Richmond have been charged or indicted for allegedly abusing residents, Attorney General Jack Conway said Thursday.
Five former caregivers at Communities of Oakwood in Pulaski County were charged Wednesday with reckless abuse of a vulnerable adult and failure to report the abuse following an incident involving a mentally disabled resident in August.
Just last year, Oakwood fully regained its federal funding, which it had lost because of numerous problems.
In 2005 and 2006, the facility received 24 Type A citations — the most serious — indicating a resident's life or safety had been endangered because of violations of state regulations. Two of those citations were for situations involving deaths.
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In the most recent incident, Michael Whitaker of Mount Vernon, William Keene of Somerset, Joshua Walters of Bronston and Brandon Cameron of Somerset, all 21, and 22-year-old Robert Carosello of Ferguson were charged, Conway's office said Thursday.
The criminal complaints allege that about Aug. 17 the defendants unreasonably confined a mildly mentally disabled resident in a room at Oakwood.
Once inside the room, the complaints say, the defendants recklessly inflicted injuries on the victim, including bruises to his torso and neck.
None of the defendants notified the Cabinet for Health and Family Services of the suspected abuse immediately, as required by state law, according to a news release from Conway's office.
Once Oakwood's administration became aware of the incident, about three days later, they sent the resident to the hospital and notified the cabinet, the release said.
Shannon Ware is president and CEO of Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, the non-profit mental health agency that was awarded the contract to oversee Oakwood in 2006. Ware said Thursday that the resident was not seriously injured and that he is back at the facility.
The incident came to light when another employee saw bruises and notified the administration, Ware said.
"We called the cabinet, we called the AG, we called police immediately," she said.
"We have zero tolerance for this at Oakwood. ... We've certainly gotten rid of a lot of people down there that aren't appropriate to work in that facility," Ware said.
"We've been working side by side with police to investigate."
Ware said the employees were immediately removed from the premises and no longer work for the facility.
Summonses were issued for all of the defendants who must appear in Pulaski District Court on Oct. 14.
The charges are a result of an investigation conducted by Conway's Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control, with help from employees of the Department of Community Based Services and the Office of the Inspector General.
Also on Thursday, Conway announced the indictments of three former Madison County caregivers in the abuse of a mentally disabled man at Independent Opportunities Inc. at Richmond.
On Sept. 15, a Madison County grand jury indicted Patsy Jackson, 62, of Mount Sterling, with misdemeanor reckless abuse of a vulnerable adult in an incident that allegedly occurred on Sept. 21, 2009, according to Conway's office. The indictment alleges that Jackson abused a mentally challenged victim by slapping him.
The grand jury also returned indictments Wednesday against Hosea Farris and Verna Campbell.
Farris was indicted for criminal attempt to knowingly abuse an adult, a misdemeanor. It is alleged that Farris slapped and pulled the hair of the same mentally challenged victim on Sept. 22, 2009.
Campbell is charged with knowingly abusing a vulnerable adult, a felony.
"Campbell is alleged to have abused the same mentally challenged victim by pushing him into the shower, subjecting him to hot and cold shower temperatures, spraying him in the mouth and nose with water, forcing him onto a changing table, and raking her shoes across his bare feet, causing red marks on his arms and feet," according to the news release from Conway's office.
Jackson is scheduled to appear Oct. 4 in Madison District Court. Campbell posted a $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear Oct. 14 in Madison Circuit Court. No court date has been set for Farris, according to the attorney general's office.
Independent Opportunities officials did not immediately return a telephone call asking for a response.
Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that the Independent Opportunities employees were terminated.
Bond said the cabinet closely monitors programs such as Independent Opportunities to "ensure a safe environment for those they serve."
Ware, meanwhile, said that the mental health agency that oversees Oakwood had worked hard to make improvements. From 2003 until 2007, 18 employees had been criminally charged in connection with incidents of abuse at the facility. At least seven pleaded guilty. Several others were not convicted, according to Herald-Leader archives.
Bond said Oakwood did not receive a Type A citation in the latest incident.
Despite the latest criminal charges, Ware said she thought Oakwood had become one of the best facilities of its type in the country: "I think it's excellent."