Panel to focus on predators in care homes

Date: July 20, 2008
The Sunday Times- 07/20/2008

A local attorney will be traveling to Washington, D.C, this week to talk about problems that can arise when sexual predators and violent criminals are placed in personal care and nursing homes — including the effect on the owners of such businesses.

Attorney Sean McDonough knows about the issues first-hand, through his representation of an Alzheimer\’s patient raped in 2002. At the time, the 86-year-old woman was a resident of Country Living Personal Care Home in Nicholson, as was the rapist, 31-year-old Daniel Statham.

The Sunday Times does not publish names of sexual assault victims.

Mr. Statham was mentally disabled and a sexually violent predator who landed at the home after completing a six-year prison sentence for an aggravated indecent assault involving a 14-year-old girl in Wayne County.

“He was eligible for (disability payments), and that\’s the reason he was there” Mr. McDonough said.

Award gains attention

It was a Times-Tribune news story about a $1.1 million award Mr. McDonough obtained for the elderly victim that catapulted him onto a national stage.

After reading the story, Wes Bledsoe, an Oklahoma City, Okla., man who advocates for nursing home residents\’ rights, contacted Mr. McDonough.

“What I\’ve been doing for the last five years is analyzing — researching the impact of placing predators in nursing homes,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “It\’s shocking to think that these things could happen in America.”

Mr. Bledsoe will be meeting Mr. McDonough and several other-s in Washington on Wednesday to testify before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Small Business, The topic will be the impact predators in long-term care can have on small-business owners.

“It\’s an opportunity to be heard,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “We can tell them what happens to these
(business owners) and what happens to the patients, families and staff.”

Legislation urged

Both believe legislators could help protect residents of nursing homes and personal care homes by passing new laws and strengthening regulations. Mr., Bledsoe said Oklahoma legislators passed laws last month that set up regulations for a new kind of privately run nursing home designed specifically for patients who are sexual predators and violent criminals.

In Pennsylvania, anyone who will use state or federal money to pay for nursing home care is evaluated by the local Area Agency on Aging, according to director Teresa Osborne.

Anyone identified as having “behavioral health problems,” including violent or predatory behavior, will be brought to the attention of the state Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, part of the state Department of Public Welfare.

Staffers there will identify the needs of the patient and decide whether a nursing home would be appropriate, Ms. Osborne said.

“They\’ll look at other options, including state hospitals,” she said. “And there are nursing homes in Pennsylvania (that provide) specialized care for these types of cases.”

There are no such procedures for personal care homes, though. And if the state Department of Public Welfare decides that a person with a history of violent or predatory behavior belongs in a nursing home, it\’s still the nursing home\’s decision to accept that patient.

Ms. Osborne said nursing home and personal care home owners and operators have the responsibility of meeting the needs of someone with behavioral problems and protecting their other residents. That doesn\’t always happen, Mr. Bledsoe and Mr. McDonough said.

“Most nursing homes have a one-size-fits-all model,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “It\’s insane to think people who are violent or (sexual predators) should be placed somewhere with a vulnerable population.”

Mr. McDonough says his testimony before the congressional subcommittee isn\’t meant to castigate owners of nursing and personal care homes.

“I want to help,” he said. “The government really needs to consider adopting some type of regulations to deal with this issue.”

Contact the writer:
Copyright © 2008 – The Times-Tribune
Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.