Mentally disabled suffer in moves from Georgia institutions

By Alan Judd – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published June 22, 2014
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At one group home for developmentally disabled adults, a caregiver punched a resident in the face again and again. Another worker there whipped a resident with a leather belt.

At another home, a resident kept choking on food because it wasn’t chopped into the small bites his doctor had ordered. He ended up in the hospital, on a ventilator.

At yet another facility, a man went so long without a bowel movement that he vomited blood. He died in an emergency room.

These episodes, drawn from government records, illustrate the myriad challenges facing Georgia as it transforms the way it cares for people with developmental disabilities, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

Under an agreement monitored by a federal judge, the state promised four years ago to move all mentally disabled people from its psychiatric hospitals to homes in their communities. So far, 482 people have been deinstitutionalized.

Few lead meaningful lives in their new communities, according to a court-appointed consultant. They have little say over where they live, or with whom. Medical care can be sketchy. Often, group homes and adult foster homes don’t hire enough caregivers or don’t adequately train the ones they employ. Residents are dispersed across the state, sometimes far from family members or others who might keep watch over their treatment. If disabled people were simply warehoused in state hospitals, as their advocates often asserted, now it is as if they have been placed in small, isolated storage units that easily elude attention.

Most ominously, residents of many group homes have encountered similar patterns of mistreatment that plagued the state hospitals.

At least three-fourths of the facilities have been cited for violating standards of care or have been investigated over patient deaths or abuse and neglect reports since 2010. Officials have documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse, 48 of neglect, and 60 accidental injuries. In 93 other cases, group home residents allegedly assaulted one another, their caregivers or others.

Forty people died after moving into group homes. At least 30 of those deaths had not been expected.

Widespread troubles in those facilities prompted the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to suspend transfers in January – a delay, continuing indefinitely, that is likely to cause the state to miss a deadline of July 1, 2015, to complete the moves. Almost 350 disabled people remain in state hospitals, and many of them have profound medical needs that will complicate efforts to find acceptable homes.


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Filed under Mental health

4 responses to “Mentally disabled suffer in moves from Georgia institutions

  1. I am Ray Lillie. My son Michael Keith Lillie has been in SummitRidge Hospital since July 15, 2014. Keith has a long history of drug abuse and will be 40 years old 12/17/2014 if he lives. If interested in this situation please call me on my cell phone (859) 230-0096. I am concerned the electroconvulsive treatments may kill him or make him into a vegiee.

  2. You can also call me on our land line (859) 987-6140

  3. Robert Ray Lillie
    Michael Keith Lillie is somewhere in the Atlanta area. He has been trying to call me collect. The phone company will not tell me the cost, therefore I will not give them my credit card number as I suspect a scam. Today is September 30 2014.

  4. Robert Ray Lillie September 30 2014
    The phone number that he is using trying to contact me is 404-879-1564.
    Can you find where he is? This is a pay phone. It will not accept a call back.

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