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Two DHS workers fired after mentally disabled woman forced to eat jalapeno peppers

Two DHS workers were fired in May after officials concluded a mentally disabled woman was forced to eat jalapeno peppers mixed into her food. The woman lives at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. The former employees are seeking reinstatement and deny the accusations.
by Nolan Clay Published: June 24, 2012

Two DHS workers have been fired after officials concluded a mentally disabled woman under their care was forced to eat jalapeno peppers mixed into her food.

Patty England, 31, of Pauls Valley, and Sheila Scott, 54, of Tatums, were direct care specialists II at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. They are appealing their May 2 terminations.

“It's a case of it didn't happen,” their attorney, Gerard Dumas, said of the accusation.

A key witness against them said both would make the woman eat all the food on her plate and would not allow the woman to have anything to drink with her meal. The alleged victim is identified only by her initials in the discharge letters.

“You were responsible for the care of vulnerable adults, and you intentionally subjected F.M. to abuse through manipulation of F.M.'s food and water, as well as through the use of demeaning and abusive behavior and language,” center director Jeff Livingston wrote both workers.

“You deprived F.M. of appropriate nutrition and care which had the potential to cause physical and mental injury, and caused F.M. to experience an increase in incidents which involve food.”

Investigators for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services sent reports on their findings to a Garvin County prosecutor. No criminal charges have been filed.

The internal DHS investigation focused on complaints made last year that jalapeno peppers were put into the mentally disabled woman's food and salt into her water to control her behavior. Both workers were reassigned in October after coming under investigation.

DHS commissioners are considering closing the Pauls Valley center rather than spending millions of dollars to make required improvements to outdated buildings.

Under a proposal, about 46 of the 124 residents would be moved to the DHS center for the mentally disabled in Enid. The rest would be transitioned into community-based homes.

A vote on the proposal could come in July.

Guardians and parents of residents of the Pauls Valley center have spoken out repeatedly against closing the facility.

Disciplinary records show DHS officials have had more trouble with workers at Pauls Valley than with workers at the center in Enid. More than a dozen direct care specialists have been discharged from the Pauls Valley center so far this year. Most were probationary employees.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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