The incidents at the Munne Center underscore a wider problem in Florida ALFs that care for people with mental illnesses: Homes are allowed to stay open despite histories of violence that jeopardize the safety of residents.
Twice the rate of abuse
Year after year, regulators found people inside the homes suffering twice the rate of abuse including beatings, sexual abuse and intimidation than at standard facilities, a Herald analysis shows.
A manager at Arlington House in Palatka was found sexually abusing at least three different men with severe mental illnesses in 2008, but it wasnt until the local fire inspector found a broken sprinkler system the next year that the facility was closed.
At Nueva Vida, a cluster of cottages in Miami-Dade, police were called 38 times in 2008, and investigated six assaults and a brutal murder in which a 29-year-old man with a violent criminal past smashed a brick into the head of his 52-year-old roommate, nearly severing his ear. The next year, the violence continued, with residents routinely beating one another, police reports show. Though the home was required to report the incidents to AHCA, inspectors found it hadnt and the agency never imposed sanctions allowed by state law.
In an analysis of facilities in Miami-Dade, where the majority of the special homes are located, The Herald found the homes cited for inadequate supervision are also far more likely to draw police and emergency calls.
The violence does more than disrupt residents treatment: It leaves them in serious danger.
Even a person without a mental illness would have a difficult time, said Alan Lipton, Floridas former chief of psychiatric services. Its unacceptable.
In Lauderhill, a special enclave set aside for a group of ALFs catering to people with mental illness draws police or rescue calls an average of every four hours 10,703 in the past five years. Police have gone on so many calls to the area known as Cannon Point that Lauderhill officers now receive special training in crisis intervention.
The rise in violence comes as advocates and Floridas Department of Elder Affairs are pressing for increasing the minimum qualifications of people running the facilities and ramping up training for their employees.
Lee, former chief of the Elder Affairs ombudsman program, said as the homes become the primary residences for people with mental disorders, they are failing to provide the professional care to take on that role.
To open a home for people with mental illness, administrators need only a high school diploma and four days of training far less than other major states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and Texas.
Youre talking about people with mental challenges complex and you got a cook in there supervising, Lee said. Talk about warehousing.
In fact, The Herald found that more than two-thirds of the homes have been caught by state agents with untrained workers or dangerously low staff levels since 2002 and in some cases, no employees at all.
At Tampas Escondido Palms, staff never helped as two residents died in separate incidents one from a drug overdose, the other from neglect.
For an entire day, Jason Thomas Wright, a 28-year-old recovering addict, was stumbling, slurring his words and falling asleep outside the home. Though caretakers were alerted to his drastic change in behavior and struggles with drug abuse, they never called a doctor.