Investigation into group home abuse allegations

January 30, 2013 2:41:11 PM PST
Eyewitness News began investigating the group home after a frantic family member contacted the Investigators about the abuse of a loved one.

Eyewitness News uncovered several cases of abuse even some that required emergency medical treatment.

The group home says the problem has been corrected. One family and a former worker are not so sure.

For Timothy Heinz who is mentally disabled, nothing makes him happier than spending time with his brother, Michael.

Michael has dedicated his life to protecting his disabled brother.

"That's the only thing my mother wanted when she was dying. She said, 'Just make sure he's taken care of,'" Michael Heinz, Timothy's brother said.

And for years, Timothy was well taken care of at a group home in Staten Island or so his brother thought.

Earlier this year, Michael discovered severe bruises on Timothy's body.

"He was being punched and brutalized," Michael Heinz said.

He reported the abuse to the state which led to an investigation in which the group home, run by Community Resources, was cited for ''serious deficiencies".

Among the deficiencies were the failure to report Timothy's case (an allegation of abuse) and "failure to provide protective oversight".

But most disturbing, is that investigators discovered more abuse.

Another resident "sustained injuries" that required three visits to the emergency room last spring.

Michael says the group home never even told him who was responsible for the abuse nor what happened to the worker.

"So you're saying the abuser can still be there?" asked Eyewitness News investigative reporter Jim Hoffer.

"Absolutely," Michael Heinz said.

"And still abusing your brother?" Hoffer asked.

"Absolutely," Michael Heinz said.

A former worker at the group home says she quit years ago because of the administration's failure to fire people whom she reported for abusing residents.

"Two people I'm telling you about were removed, instead of being terminated, and moved to another group home where they can abuse another resident," said Paula Mondido, a former group home worker.

Decades ago, Staten Island's Willowbrook became notorious for warehousing thousands of mentally disabled.

Abusive conditions there led to sweeping reforms: The state closed down Willowbrook and moved thousands of its residents into smaller, kinder group homes, like the one where Timothy lives.

"All we're doing in society is creating a whole bunch of little Willowbrooks," Michael Heinz said.

Michael now fears what's happening at his brother's group home is occurring at group homes across the state where staff is under-paid and under- trained. It's a business model he says that's undermining safety.

"Instead of being institutionalized by the hundreds, they're being housed by the eights, but the treatment is going back to the dark ages," Michael Heinz said.

Community Resources declined Eyewitness News' request for a camera interview, but in a statement says their group homes are among the highest rated in the state. The agency says the deficiencies discovered by inspectors were "promptly addressed and approved." They say law prohibits them to talk specifically about Timothy's case including whether anyone was ever fired for abuse.


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