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A look at Oklahoma's care homes for the mentally disabled

By Gavin Off and Ginnie Graham - Tulsa World Staff Writers Modified: February 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm •  Published: February 22, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series of stories investigating conditions in Oklahoma's group homes for the mentally disabled, mentally ill and elderly. The investigation was conducted by reporters from the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman.

Officials have investigated two dozen cases of abuse and neglect at federally supported homes for mentally disabled people since 2007 and found more than 2,500 violations of care standards, public records show.

Homes had violations ranging from failing to protect a resident from sexual assault to failing to provide a sanitary environment, according to records from the state Health Department.

New Frontiers shut down in OKC metro

An outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases, mental anguish and a rape allegation ultimately led to the 2007 shut down of a string of New Frontiers cottages in the Oklahoma City area.

“We had a systemic breakdown throughout these cottages,” said Dorya Huser, the state Health Department's chief of long-term care services. “We had some serious concerns.”

Inspectors visited New Frontiers more than 60 times in about a year, Huser said, even though facilities usually just get a yearly inspection, plus an occasional revisit or visit initiated by a complaint.

“Each time we seemed to find more problems,” she said.

Edmond attorney Floyd Propps was hired by owner Don Moore to try and prevent closure of the nine cottages that housed about 60 residents.

“I remember it being so frustrating. Anything we tried to do didn't seem to work,” he said. “I think there was an immense amount of friction between the administration there and the Health Department.”

Records reveal that from 2006 to 2007:

*Three patients tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases and test results were missing for a fourth patient.

*Six patients from four cottages were likely exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

*The homes failed to protect patients from sexual exploitation and consequently spread sexually transmitted diseases.

*Neglect due to mental anguish from frequent witnessing of inappropriate sexual behavior.

*An alleged rape of a female resident by a male resident in July 2007.

Homes should provide sex education, access to birth control and protection for sexually active clients, said Mary Fleming, the Health Department's director of long term care survey.

“There was a lot of education. There was a lot of follow-up when it was learned certain people had a sexually transmitted disease,” she said.

The department declined to recommend recertification for the cottages to receive Medicaid reimbursement, essentially forcing the cottages to close.

‘Light a lot of fires’

In March 2008, Jerald Ray Bishop, a Home of Hope employee, allegedly raped and sexually abused a female resident of the Vinita home. The abuse allegedly took place on several occasions while he worked as a job coach. Bishop is awaiting an April 16 preliminary hearing in Craig County to determine whether he will be tried.

David Svedman, chief executive officer of Home of Hope, said police were notified the day the resident informed staff and Bishop was immediately fired.

Svedman said he was frustrated with the lack of response from state officials in the follow-up investigation.

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