The Hillandale Assisted Living Facility, a Tampa Bay-area home where disabled young adults were raped, beaten, drugged and locked in a dank closet one resident was struck by a car and killed may be closing its doors on the orders of state health regulators.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration revoked Hillandales license in an order dated April 15. The facility had been operating without the ability to collect precious Medicaid dollars since June 13, 2011, when the state yanked the homes status as a provider under the state and federal insurance program for needy and disabled Floridians. AHCA had hoped the loss of Medicaid dollars would starve out the home, but it found alternate state funding.
The April order, signed by AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek, concludes that Hillandale had consistently failed to provide a safe and decent environment free from abuse and neglect and failed to treat its residents with consideration and respect.
In addition to the closure, Hillandales owners, Gene and Amelia Cowles, face $21,000 in fines and fees. Under Florida law, the Cowles family may appeal Dudeks order to the district court of appeal.
Hillandale, the order said, cares for a very vulnerable segment of Floridas population: young persons with mental and physical problems. [The home] has demonstrated that it cannot adequately care for such residents and safeguard them from harm. Thus, [it] should not longer be allowed to have its license.
The Pasco County home had been the scene of much reported abuse, neglect and mayhem since it opened its doors in 2005, and advocates for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities had lobbied the state to close it. The seminal event occurred on May 14, 2011, when one of the homes caregivers, who had a history of inappropriate contact with residents, was accused of having sex with a 26-year-old woman who suffers from autism and is cognitively impaired.
The man, 59-year-old Orlando Baez, was charged with sexual battery. The case remains open.
Augustine Smythe Weekley, Jr., the attorney for Hillandales owners, declined to discuss the case, except to point out that the [administrative law judge] did not recommend revocation, but AHCA acted on its own to do so. He added: Appeal is being considered.
The health care agency also declined to comment. In an email to the parents of the reported rape victim earlier this month, an assistant general counsel for AHCA, James H. Harris, wrote: I know that this will not fix the harm done to your daughter, but perhaps it will prevent harm to others.
Hillandale, whose owners also run two other ALFs in Tampa Bay, received extensive coverage as part of an award-winning series of stories in The Miami Herald, called Neglected to Death, which showed the state had allowed scores of problem homes to remain open sometimes for years despite a litany of abuses.
The final order provides 30 days for state health, social service and disability administrators to arrange for the safe and orderly transfer of the 20 or so Hillandale residents.
Annie Aponte of Safety Harbor, the mother of the reported rape victim, is haunted at the thought that Baez took pictures of the woman, in violation of federal privacy laws. When I read that in the [court documents], thats what also got me upset, she said. I dont know what pictures he took of her in the shower, in the bathroom, or when he was raping her? I dont know. I want to know where they are and who has them. I want them.