The country is full of facilities designed to care for and treat individuals who cannot properly care for themselves, including nursing homes. Some healthcare facilities specialize in caring for individuals with mental disabilities. Many of the patients are older and have no way of caring for themselves. While these centers typically treat those with disabilities with care and respect, there are those that mistreat and abuse them.
One such case involved four employees of a group home in Mount Dora, Florida, physically abusing a mentally disabled patient. A caretaker had called authorities to the property when they said the disabled woman had been acting out and was found with minor injuries. However, surveillance video revealed that the woman was “willfully tortured and maliciously punished.”
The Florida nonprofit that runs the group home, Attain, fired all six employees that were there on the day of the alleged abuse, including the four women involved in the violent acts. 42-year-old Shaneka Hester, 24-year-old Jaleyah Wiggins, 25-year-old Carolyn Joe, and 29-year-old Breneisha Blunt were all charged with aggravated abuse of a disabled adult.
Even though the other two employees were not involved in the abuse, they were still fired for failing to intervene.
Initial reports indicated that the staff utilized “several soft control techniques” based on training they had received. These techniques are designed to de-escalate a situation, keeping patients calm without harm. The Department of Children and Families’ review of the footage uncovered a different story.
Authorities say Hester began the abuse by shoving the disabled woman, potentially leading to the knee scrap. Police also said that Wiggins pushed her as well. The abuse continued as Joe pushed her twice, first to the floor then again onto a couch.
Later in the footage, the patient is seen on the floor in another room with the staff over her. Joe then pins the patient’s head to the floor with her right foot, lifting her left to put all her weight on the woman’s head. Officials say this action “could have easily caused great bodily harm or even death.” Wiggins also threw a shoe at the woman, and Blunt struck her with closed fists.
None of these are approved actions on “soft control” the employees were trained in.
The executive director of Attain, Craig Cook, told The Washington Post “This does not represent our values when it comes to our obligation to supporting the most vulnerable. The situation angers us, and we want to do what’s necessary to make sure these bad actors are held accountable.”
Cook stated that the nonprofit uses a thorough vetting process, which includes screening potential hires with background checks and drug testing. Any new hires are also required to have at least a year’s worth of experience. They are then put through training for two and a half weeks before they begin work.
Attain is in the process of “reengaging with [their] staff” about the best practices they can use to better care for their patients in the aftermath of these charges.
Unfortunately, abuse like this continues to happen all across America, even in the great state of Texas. It can be devastating for the families of these individuals. These cases can be difficult, which is why you need a trusted and experienced attorney on your side. Contact Wormington & Bollinger and let us fight for you.