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Was Alleged Care Center Abuse and Neglect the Result of Planned Closures?

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Woodbridge, NJWhen one hears the phrase, “care center abuse,” one automatically thinks of nursing homes catering to elderly residents. But that’s only part of the story: there are care center facilities dedicated to all manner of individuals with special needs, regardless of age. To that end, the death last year of a patient in an institution that serves individuals with developmental disabilities in New Jersey prompted a state investigation and a review of prior decisions to close not one, but two long-term care facilities.

Others prefer to have the facilities remain open, and instead draft policies and protocols designed to protect the safety and well-being of residents who might otherwise be at risk of care home abuse.

According to a report that was carried in The Times of Trenton (11/20/13), the case surrounds the events that led to the death in 2013 of Maureen Doran. The 68-year-old had resided at the Woodbridge Developmental Center without incident for almost 17 years. Then in May, Doran was assaulted by the individual with whom she shared her residential cottage at the facility.

While the report did not break out what injuries if any Doran suffered as a result of the assault, the long-time resident suffered a broken leg three months later, in August - the result of a fall. During her convalescence, Doran is reported to have developed aspiration pneumonia and septic shock, succumbing at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway on September 3, last year.

The report did not identify the reasons behind the state’s decision, in July 2012, to close both Woodbridge and the New Jersey Developmental Center at Totowa. The closures were to have occurred by 2017. However, the deceased woman’s sisters and co-guardians are reported to have claimed that New Jersey’s decision to close the facilities resulted in resident transfers and staff reassignments that created a decline of safety and supervision, leading to residential care abuse.

What’s more, family members of residents contend their loved ones will not get the same level of care and round-the-clock supervision normally available at such a facility, and fear there will be more accidents and nursing home abuse if the closures happen as planned in three years. Some family members have filed a care center abuse lawsuit to prevent the closures from happening.

The report noted the comments of New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), who in her role as chairwoman of Assembly Human Service Committee petitioned the state Human Services Commissioner to halt any effort to close the two long-term care centers, in addition to calling for process and protocol that would serve to better protect the health and safety of care center residents.

“Tragic incidents have occurred at developmental centers, group homes and other residences,” Huttle said in a statement. “Regardless of where it happens, we must make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent [care center abuse] and neglect of our most vulnerable.”

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