State investigations into a whistleblower’s lawsuit against the National Deaf Academy in Mount Dora that alleged that deaf and psychiatric patients at its residential treatment center have suffered serious abuse and neglect. Some of these incidents have not been reported to authorities.
Records show this school has a history of repeated violations and fines. Records also show that past cases involved death and injuries, which led to fines and potential revocation of its state license.
Two former employees say that the abuse and neglect go beyond what state officials have investigated because managers are covering up incidents, according to the lawsuit.
The suit describes abuse including patients being punched, choked, pinned against walls and injured during forcible takedowns. One patient suffered an injured leg and was denied a wheelchair, forcing her to sit in her own urine and crawl on the floor, the lawsuit states.
Also, it was reported that patient rooms were filthy, infested with cockroaches, and contained rotting food, according to the lawsuit filed by Kyle Gilrain, a licensed social worker, and Carol Savage, a licensed mental-health counselor.
“I want these companies to be held accountable for the violations that have occurred in their facility, and I want them to finally take these complaints seriously so that the children and disabled adults in that facility can have a safe, healthy environment to live in,” Gilrain said. Savage added, “My first priority is and always has been the welfare of the children and disabled people” at the deaf academy.
Its parent company, United Health Services, released a statement saying the deaf academy “takes the safety and well-being of its patients and employees very seriously. There has been erroneous information circulating about the facility, regarding allegations of abuse and neglect. These allegations are unfounded and have been unsubstantiated by the state regulatory agencies…”
Problems have come to the attention of the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which has cited the center for 95 violations just this year alone, including complaints in March that a resident was reportedly kicked in the mouth and another resident allegedly suffered an elbow injury during a disciplinary takedown.
The 132-bed residential facility on U.S. Highway 441 spans more than 20 acres with seven buildings. The residential center houses patients from ages 6 through 64 who are not only deaf or hard of hearing, but also require care for a range of psychiatric and behavioral problems.
There is also a charter school on the site.
Last month we reported a story about a Center for Deaf and Blind in Hawaii that was investigated for alleged widespread sexual abuse between classmates. A federal judge in Hawaii approved a preliminary $5.75 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit claimed that the state knew that the older children at the school were abusing the younger students for years but did nothing to stop the abuse. The award is said to go toward help for the victims’ counseling and therapy.
It is not okay to abuse anyone, especially handicapped children. If these two former employees did not come forward and report this abuse to the state, this may have continued to take place. The individuals that allow this abuse to occur need to be held accountable and pay for these injustices.
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