RI Found Six Cases of Abuse Cases Before Moving to Close Group Home In Providence

College Park Apartments at 612 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence, is to close by March 25.

By Gina Macris

The recent death of a 70-year old resident of the College Park Apartments in Providence was one of six incidents of patient abuse reported at the same state-run group home for people with developmental disabilities since January, 2015, according to the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH.) 

On Monday, March 21, a department spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the nature of each investigation or shed light on four “corrective action plans” put into place in 2015 in an effort to halt the abuse. Two more allegations of abuse were reported this year, including the death of the unidentified woman Feb. 15.  

Spokeswoman Linda Reilly cited confidentiality concerns – even when declining to release statistics about the number of investigations handled by the BHDDH Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement unit. 

Reilly did confirm unrelated allegations of patient mistreatment at Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville, where two state employees have been put on paid leave. 

Five of 27 staff members at College Park Apartments are also on paid leave, she said.  Criminal investigations are underway at both locations. 

 Reilly was asked why BHDDH decided to close the College Park group home for people with developmental disabilities rather than changing the staff. The department is under a federal court order to put the needs and wishes of people with developmental disabilities at the heart of all long-range plans devised for their benefit.  So-called person-centered planning is one of the central provisions of a 2014 consent decree aimed at giving people with disabilities  opportunities for integrated work and leisure activities in their communities. 

Reilly said each of the 14 residents atCollege Park indicated a desire to move rather than stay at the facility. The family members and guardians of the residents reviewed the individual plans for their loved ones, Reilly said. 

Reilly did not elaborate on reasons for closing the home, except to say that the BHDDH director, Maria Montanaro, called on an outside agency to investigate “in order to corroborate the decision to close College Park.” 

That agency, Day One, “completely agreed that the house should close,” Reilly said. 

Day One was consulted after the 70 year-old College Park resident died at Roger Williams Medical Center and another resident of the same home subsequently was found to have “unexplained injuries” March 8, Reilly said. The dead patient had a fracture of the thigh bone that had not been treated promptly and became infected. 

Day One was consulted because of its expertise in dealing with people with limited verbal ability, Reilly said. The agency is better known for its expertise in sexual abuse and domestic violence, although there were no allegations of sexual abuse at College Park Apartments, Reilly has said.

Budgetary considerations had nothing to do with the decision to close the home, Reilly said. All residents are to be moved by Friday, March 25. 

Governor Gina Raimondo’s budget would cut an overall $15.5 million in non-salary operating expenses for 23 state-run group homes, about 46 percent of the current budget of $33.2 million, in the next fiscal year to help make money available to help fund the 2014 consent decree mandating integration. 

Reilly also clarified previous comments  by Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts about “targeted investigations” of group homes for people with developmental disabilities to be made by BHDDH and Department of Health officials. 

Reilly said the term referred to “spot checks” to be made of the 23 homes run by BHDDH itself through the Rhode Island Community Living and Supports  (RICLAS) unit of the division of developmental disabilities, “because we will not tolerate any neglect or mistreatment of people in our care.” 

RICLAS houses 210 of of a total of about 1300 with developmental disabilities who live in group homes in Rhode Island. The other people live in homes run by private service agencies that are not part of Roberts’ “targeted” spot checks.