Teen’s death comes amid complaints at ResCare’s WV facilities

Woodward Children’s Home in Charleston, where Jeremy Bush, 13, lived before he stole a van, crashed soon after and died. GIUSEPPE SABELLA Gazette-Mail
GIUSEPPE SABELLA | Gazette-Mail
A sign on the ResCare office at One Dunbar Plaza. The company has more than 10 behavioral health licenses in the state, and each agency may have several service sites, according to Jolynn Marra, the director of the West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification.

The death of a teenage ResCare client on March 15 followed dozens of complaints against the company’s West Virginia facilities.

From 2012 to 2016, the state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification confirmed 32 complaints among 10 West Virginia ResCare agencies. These included allegations of neglect, sexual abuse and issues with the training and staffing of employees.

OHFLAC substantiated each complaint, including 10 from 2016, as part of its responsibility to uphold state licensure rules and federal certification regulations.

ResCare’s corporate office is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Among several other services, its residential facilities provide care for people with often extreme physical and mental disabilities.

This is a list detailing some of the complaints filed against ResCare with OHFLAC:

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Jeremy Bush, 13, took a Dodge Caravan from Woodward Children’s Home, a ResCare facility in Charleston, and drove half a mile before he crashed into a stone wall.

Fire consumed the van, and Bush died at the scene. Though his death is still under investigation, state OHFLAC surveyors recently verified several cases of clients leaving other ResCare locations.

A ResCare agency in Clarksburg discovered a neighbor of one facility returned its resident on Jan. 17, 2016. It was the client’s fifth time leaving without anyone noticing.

The client entered the neighbor’s home and made himself a cup of coffee. When the neighbor brought him home, she found an unlocked gate, a faulty doorbell and a staff member asleep on the couch, according to OHFLAC.

A facility under the same agency lost a client in 2015 and found him in a company vehicle later that day. An employee reported the disappearance a day later after she overheard two nurses talking about the incident.

An OHFLAC investigator discovered the facility never gave the client a proper medical assessment, nor did it properly train the employee assigned to care for him.

Three other ResCare agencies temporarily lost clients or left them alone between 2015 and 2016. An agency in Logan had three incidents in one year.

An employee allegedly left the first client alone in a car twice in one day: once to pay for gasoline and another time to drop clothing off to her son. The second client escaped from her bedroom window and the third client walked out of his yard without an employee noticing.

Neighbors returned the clients during two of the incidents.

Complaint records do not show any recent escape incidents at the facility from which Bush stole the van he would eventually crash. They do reveal notes about a resident’s known behavior in 2014. The resident, listed as “Client 2” in the report, was known to “flee from his home and out of staff’s eyesight.”

The report goes on to classify the facility’s residents as “severely and profoundly retarded clients who are aggressive, assaultive or security risks.” The facility, it said, failed to staff enough employees to care for each client. Sometimes one employee would take care of four clients for hours at a time.

Records from Metro 911 of Kanawha County show emergency services responded to the facility about 35 times in the last two years.

As many as 10 calls were from people concerned about patients outside the facility, said Rick McElhaney, the deputy director of Metro 911.

Most of the other calls were for triggered fire alarms, he said.

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In 2016, an employee of the ResCare agency in Beckley put a girl, who was confined to a wheelchair, into a company van with low tire pressure, an expired registration card and an odometer that displayed nearly 7,000 miles more than the recommended number for an oil change.

The employee grabbed two of four available straps to secure the wheelchair and hooked them to the wrong spots, the OHFLAC report shows. The girl fell over and hit her head during the trip. Instead of calling for help, the employee notified another staff member who then called for an ambulance.

Emergency responders transported the girl to a hospital, and authorities then directed her to Charleston Area Medical Center 30 minutes later for a “brain bleed.” The employee who failed to secure the wheelchair resigned at a company office.

A hospital treated the girl’s head injury for five days, and she returned to the hospital with a new injury just two days after being released.

As someone who suffered a stroke in 2007, the girl had trouble sitting in armless chairs or on a bed without falling out. Still, nobody attached rails to her bed.

She fell to the floor before her second visit to the hospital, and an employee put her back in bed without notifying someone qualified to evaluate her possible injuries, OHFLAC noted.

The employee tried to call a manager instead of 911, and the girl again fell and hit her head on a nightstand.

She was later put on life support. As fluid gathered in her lungs and her kidneys shut down, the girl died after her guardian decided to have the ventilator removed.

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A ResCare facility in Parkersburg waited two days to report an employee who sexually abused two clients in 2015, OHFLAC found.

Both clients had care plans that outlined the importance of giving them personal space. Even a hug would violate the plans.

On Aug. 14, 2015, OHFLAC reported, an employee gyrated on a pool noodle and described her sex life. She also simulated sex on one of the clients and then told both clients to do the same to each other.

Though a supervisor discovered the abuse three days later, she waited another two days to inform another manager.

It took another day for employees to report the abuse to Adult Protective Services.

In a similar delay the year before, a client of the ResCare agency in Huntington reported sexual abuse and did not receive an investigation until days later, according to OHFLAC.

In late February 2016, a client of the agency in Lewisburg said she performed oral sex on an employee. The facility waited several days before it reported the incident to Adult Protective Services, and the employee admitted to the girl’s allegation after her guardian called police, OHFLAC found.

Management placed the employee on administrative leave several days after the girl reported him.

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Marjorie Carpenter joined Kenova Group Home — a ResCare facility — as a registered nurse in 2003, later taking a job as the director of nursing in 2008, according to a lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Carpenter started to bring issues to the attention of management in 2011. She was concerned about abuse, patients’ privacy rights and illegal drug use by employees, the suit states.

Other employees accused her of harassment, and the investigation into their complaints led to Carpenter’s concerns being labeled as “foolish and unfounded,” the suit alleges.

She gave OHFLAC surveyors a disc of information regarding privacy violations on Sept. 13, 2011. On the same day, her supervisor said an employee resigned in April and claimed Carpenter created a hostile work environment, the suit states.

According to OHFLAC records, a confidential informant gave surveyors a collection of photographs and videos exhibiting abuse. One video showed a client hiding her face and crying. She begged the person filming to turn off the camera, but the tape continued. Laughter can be heard in the background.

Someone photographed another client with her jeans pulled lower than normal and her undergarments stretched “extremely high.” Some of the pictures appeared on Facebook, and surveyors later discovered the files came from a company computer.

The center’s executive director lost his job over the incident, and the facility placed Carpenter on administrative leave for “creating a hostile environment,” according to the suit. Though she had no involvement in the wrongdoing, the company apparently fired her about a month later.

In 2015, a woman employed by a ResCare office in Buckhannon said she suffered from nightmares after a client tried to rape her at an understaffed residential facility.

According to a lawsuit filed in Upshur County Circuit Court, the facility’s two patients required one-on-one supervision. However, the woman took care of both patients by herself several times, the suit states.

The woman had just finished cleaning furniture in the living room when a client came out of his room and became angry.

He followed her to the porch, where she tried to isolate herself while the client calmed down. Knowing he couldn’t be reasoned with, the woman wanted to make a call.

The patient then slapped and punched her as she struggled to get the phone.

The woman tripped and fell along the way, and the patient reportedly groped her. The struggle escalated until ­— with her children in mind — the woman had to beg for her life, according to the suit.

Police arrested the man, and ResCare officials posted his bail before they returned him to the home, the suit states. An employee with the company’s human resources department soon met with the woman to discuss her well-being.

She complained to the employee about being left alone at the home — 15 minutes later, the company suspended her for allegations of misconduct, the complaint alleges, and a job ad for her position appeared the same day.

The parties in each case settled the lawsuits out of court.

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ResCare serves approximately 1,000 people and employs another 2,500 throughout West Virginia.

The company’s goal is to eliminate incidents related to safety and impropriety, Kristen Trenaman, the director of marketing communications for ResCare Inc., wrote in an email.

“ResCare’s top priority is always to ensure the safety and well-being of the individuals we serve, our employees and our caregivers,” she said.

Trenaman said privacy concerns prevent ResCare from addressing individual complaints with the media.

ResCare published a document in March that outlined challenges to caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The report cites growing demand, shifting demographics, mounting regulations, and stagnant state and federal budgets for a workforce crisis in the health care industry.

“Given current funding levels and restrictions, the industry struggles to retain the most qualified workers and is not rewarded for developing or implementing technologies to ease the demand on personnel.”

Despite the existence of challenges, Trenaman said ResCare is investing in technology, creating real-time care plans and utilizing emergency response solutions to better serve approximately 60,000 people throughout the U.S.

“We are deeply saddened when harm comes to any of the individuals we serve or to any of our employees,” Trenaman said.

Reach Giuseppe Sabella at

giuseppe.sabella@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-5189 or follow

@Gsabella on Twitter.

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