New Hope leadership changed

DANVILLE — A judge appointed a Lexington-based mental health organization to assume control of New Hope Agency, the troubled private provider of care to mentally disabled people.

On Thursday afternoon, the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board took over the Burgin operation, which has 17 residents and 22 employees.

Had Judge Bruce Petrie not appointed Bluegrass as receiver, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services was prepared to remove residents from New Hope and put them in locations around the state.

But those residents will now stay in surroundings that are familiar to them. The cabinet will continue to monitor New Hope under the management of Bluegrass.

The cabinet was prepared to move residents because 12 New Hope employees have been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation, according to a restraining order filed Thursday in Mercer Circuit Court. The reduced staff caused the cabinet to consider moving residents elsewhere so they could receive the care they need.

Petrie also signed a restraining order and temporary injunction that prohibits New Hope executive director Terry Wallingford from operating or managing any activities at the Mercer County site.

The issue is moot because Wallingford, 45, is in the Boyle County jail. He is accused of sexual abuse and rape of three former New Hope employees. Another criminal complaint awaits a judge's signature for a warrant to be served on Wallingford.

Wallingford, handcuffed, shackled and wearing a yellow jail uniform, was in Boyle Circuit Court for Thursday's proceeding. He agreed to the injunction and restraining order after discussing it with court-appointed attorney Josh Hudson.

Wallingford and New Hope are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by David Orwick, a Woodford County man who has a minority interest in New Hope. The lawsuit alleges that employees were sexually abused and harassed and one resident was sodomized.

Orwick had sought the temporary injunction and restraining order as a means of protecting the residents and remaining employees of New Hope.

As outlined in the restraining order, if there is insufficient money in New Hope funds to fully compensate Bluegrass for its expenses and services, Orwick personally guaranteed that he will make up the difference.

“I'm happy that this worked out amicably and that the residents will be taken care of,” Orwick said after the judge's ruling.

Thursday's emergency court proceeding was held in Boyle County because a special judge in Mercer County, who was filling in for another judge, indicated that he wanted to consult the Administrative Office of the Courts before hearing anything on the record in regard to the restraining order and temporary injunction. Petrie, a family court judge, then agreed to hear the matter, but only after Wallingford was present in court and advised by an attorney. Boyle and Mercer are both in the 50th Judicial Circuit.

With more than 2,500 employees, the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board is the largest non-profit community mental health center in the nation.

In November 2006, Bluegrass took over management of Oakwood, a state facility for mentally retarded adults in Somerset, after a two-year period in which that facility received 24 type-A citations, the most serious kind. Two of those citations were given after a client died.

New Hope Agency offers a variety of services to people with mental and developmental disabilities, including adult foster care, psychological services and speech, physical and occupational therapy.