Deaf facility sued after three families allege abuse and neglect

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What a sad story.  I hope these lawsuits will make this facility change their methods.  My thought is always if a lawsuit gets a company, a doctor or a school to pause and rethink how things are being done and things change – that is a good thing.  It makes life better for the next person.

According to the Times Union, there are three families who have filed lawsuits in Jacksonville against the National Deaf Academy, a Mount Dora facility for the deaf and autistic.  The allegations include one boy who lost almost 25 pounds in four month, another child was punched while Skyping his grandmother, and a third  child who said staff tackled him and sedated him with œa big shot.  Apparently, these are not the only lawsuits that have been recently filed against the facility.  The facility also faces lawsuits from other families, including a wrongful death case for a diabetic child and the negligence case of a girl who had her leg amputated.  Even though the three families live in different states and the facility is in Lake County, they were able to sue in Duval County because  Jacksonville is a central location and Universal Health Services Inc. ( who owns the National Deaf Academy) also owns two facilities in Jacksonville, the Wekiva Springs Center, a drug and alcohol treatment center, and River Point Behavioral Health, a 93-bed treatment facility.

The lawsuits claim facility staff abused the children and failed to care for them. The boys’ names were not included. Instead, they were referred to by initials: X.N., D.O, and M.R.  When M.R.’s parents removed him from the facility, his dad, an Army veteran who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought the boy to a military hospital.  The hospital found physical evidence consistent with sexual abuse, Maxwell (lawyer for these families) said. The boy had also lost weight rapidly and suffered from scabies.  D.O. , who is not deaf, would ram his head into the wall, peel the skin off his arm and pull the hair out of his head.  D.O. claimed staff slammed him into the ground and restrained him with heavy doses of sedatives.  X.N. was talking through sign language with his grandmother on Skype when a staff member hit him, Maxwell said. The boy’s grandmother thinks staff was trying to get him to stop using the computer and resorted to violence. She said she saw it happen on the screen.  All three, Maxwell said, lived in an unhealthy environment: ratty shoes, filthy clothes, dirty rooms.

Yet the biggest damage the kids suffered, Maxwell argued, was psychological. He’s already had an expert examine the three teenagers, and the expert will examine them again after they’ve acclimated to their new environments.M.R., X.N. and Daniel live in facilities near their parents now, Maxwell said.

œAt the very least, we want to make sure significant change occurs at the facility, Maxwell said. œThese are vulnerable kids who should not be put in this setting.

Since Jan. 1, 2009, police have written reports from the facility’s address 427 times. Some of those reports are for animal complaints and traffic stops. There have been 13 reports this year, including a report of battery last Tuesday and a threatening phone call last Friday.

Two former employees, Kyle Gilrain and Carol Savage, filed lawsuits against the facility last year.  Gilrain said he saw a staff member hold a patient down and choke him. He said œan NDA staff member pinned a patient against a wall, pressed his forearm into the patient’s chest and bent one of the patient’s fingers backwards; a peer punched a patient in the face and broke his glasses while they were on his face leaving cuts around his eyes; and an NDA staff member restrained a patient in an improper hold and jammed his elbow into the patient’s side.  Savage said œnursing staff refused to provide a wheelchair to a child with an injured leg, instead forcing her to crawl on the floor and sit in her own urine.  They say they were fired for complaining about the alleged abuse.

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched 99 of its own investigations into alleged abuse or neglect between 2004 and 2014. The central allegation in 35 of the cases was œphysical abuse, while œsexual abuse or œmolestation were the principal accusations in 15. Other allegations included œasphyxiation, œbone fracture, and œbizarre punishment.

DCF found that five cases of alleged physical abuse and one case of inadequate supervision were œverified, meaning œa preponderance of the credible evidence results in a determination that the specific harm or threat of harm was the result of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Fifteen other investigations yielded œsome indicator that the accusations were credible, including six cases of physical abuse and one allegation of sexual abuse.

Apparently, the FBI  is also investigating the alleged abuse and neglect of the vulnerable deaf and autistic children at NDA. A recent investigation by NBC News found 10 different patients at NDA  have alleged physical abuse to a government-funded advocacy group for the disabled in 2013.

I hope things change at NDA.  This is horrible.

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