Special Reports

Family member says disabled man was neglected in Paint Lick group home

Timothy Smith, 49,  was a resident of Community Ties of America at Paint Lick until another resident was the victim of an unsolved homicide and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services removed all the residents from the home and two others owned by Community Ties at Waco. This photo shows him one day after he was removed from Community Ties. His sister Darlene Dedman says he was neglected at Community Ties.
Timothy Smith, 49, was a resident of Community Ties of America at Paint Lick until another resident was the victim of an unsolved homicide and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services removed all the residents from the home and two others owned by Community Ties at Waco. This photo shows him one day after he was removed from Community Ties. His sister Darlene Dedman says he was neglected at Community Ties.

At 49, Timothy Smith is severely mentally disabled, does not speak, and is dependent on others for his most basic needs. Much of the time, he hangs onto a stuffed animal for comfort.

Smith's sister, Darlene Dedman of Harrodsburg, said this week she reported to officials in the Garrard County attorney's office that Smith was neglected as a resident in a Paint Lick group home where another intellectually disabled resident was strangled in June.

State officials removed Smith from the group home following the alleged homicide; he now lives at a group home in Lexington.

Dedman said her brother lost at least 30 pounds after moving to the Paint Lick home in 2010, was dirty and had not been given a haircut in months. She said he had an injury to his ribs, an injury to his ear and a cut on his forehead.

"When I saw him ... I nearly fainted. ... All I could do was cry," Dedman said.

Stephen Simpson, a paralegal in the county attorney's office, said he forwarded Dedman's allegations to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said Friday that the agency was aware of Dedman's allegations.

Midkiff has said Tennessee-based Community Ties of America, which operated the home in Paint Lick and two homes in Waco, notified the cabinet that it no longer intends to offer residential services in Kentucky. Residents are being moved from those facilities.

"We are really sorrowful that what happened, happened ... the death," said Ron Lee, President of Community Ties of America.

Lee confirmed on Friday that the company had pulled its small group home operation out of Kentucky. He said the three group homes served only eight residents: three at Paint Lick and two and three residents respectively at the Waco homes.

Much is unknown about what led to the death of Shawn K. Akridge, 35, also a resident at the Paint Lick home. Officials have ruled it a homicide.

A judge dismissed a murder charge against Chester Watkins, 32, an intellectually disabled resident of the home, after state police said they had turned up new evidence in the June 12 death of Akridge.

Watkins had been charged after a group home employee reported seeing Watkins choking Akridge. The staff member pulled Watkins off the victim, an arrest report said.

Akridge was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Berea Hospital.

Now that the charge against Watkins has been dismissed, police have said the case will go to a Garrard County grand jury for possible indictment and that there could be a new suspect. The next grand jury meets July 20.

Lee said the cabinet is also investigating.

"I've directed everyone to cooperate fully" with the investigation, he said.

In 13 years of operation, "this is the first time that we've had an incident such as this ever," Lee said. "I hate this."

Regarding Dedman's allegations that her brother was neglected, Lee said he does not think any resident was ever neglected.

"There's never been an allegation of neglect of individuals in our homes," Lee said.

He said residents were offered three to five meals a day.

"We had a nurse in the home twice a week doing medication monitoring, the state case manager was in the home once a month," in addition to frequent visits from a behavior analyst and other monitors, he said.

Kentucky was the only state in which Community Ties operated group homes. But in Kentucky and five other states — Tennessee, Illinois, Florida, Georgia and Hawaii — the company provides support services to group homes such as behavior analysts, registered nurses and therapists, Lee said. The support services company will continue in all six states, he said.

Meanwhile, Dedman said her brother has gained weight and is thriving at his new group home in Lexington.

Dedman said her brother had lived at Bluegrass Oakwood, a state-run facility in Somerset for the developmentally disabled before he was moved to the Community Ties group home in 2010.

Midkiff said she could not speak to an individual case, but generally when a resident from a state facility is moved to a community placement, a comprehensive assessment is completed to ensure that the community placement is appropriate and that the community provider can meet the individual's needs.

She said group homes providing alternatives to institutional care must comply with regulations and other requirements designed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of residents.

The Paint Lick group home was considered a private provider of services, but it received state and federal funding.

Smith is a ward of the state. Dedman said she is concerned that her brother's state guardian and state case worker did not monitor him more closely.

Midkiff said the cabinet can't comment on individual cases.

"I think," Dedman said, "that the whole system failed my brother and Chester and Shawn."

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