Shes my baby. Shell always be my baby.
Harold Aponte, the womens father, called the homes closure a shallow victory.
By closing Hillandale down, a repeat offender is no longer a threat to our most vulnerable and, in many cases, helpless citizens, Aponte said. Unfortunately it took our daughters assault to make people listen.
Virtually since its opening in 2005, administrators with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or APD, and advocates for people with disabilities and mental illness had warned the state health agency about problems at Hillandale and a related facility, Mapleway, near Clearwater.
Among their concerns: Caregivers had punished residents by throwing them into a small closet with a steel door; residents called it a cage. Both staff and other residents were employing illegal restraints - including wrestling takedowns and painful pressure points. Residents were on potentially dangerous tranquilizers, which one doctor working for APD likened to chemical restraints.
There exists a pattern whereby every time there is an attempt to provide services to the clients at the ALF ... by reputable professionals, those providers note serious abuse taking place, an APD psychologist wrote in a May 2010, memo. AHCA is aware of these issues, but has not closed them down.
The homes administrator, John Ross, was at the center of the controversy: He claimed to have a PhD a degree he received from Belford University, which the state Medicaid Fraud Control unit called an online scam with dubious credentials.
In her January 2013 recommended order, Administrative Law Judge Lynne A. Quimby-Pennock declared that Ross has a high school diploma. He does not have any specialized training in health care, but has some training in health care administration.
She recommended that Hillandale be fined $20,000 but not shuttered.
But Dudek said the fine was not nearly enough and ordered the facility closed. She noted in her order that Hillandale had been cited for failing to have enough qualified staff to care for residents, had failed to report incidents in which residents were injured, had allowed a man with a known propensity towards violence to live at the home even after he assaulted another resident, and had failed to act when Baez made improper advances toward the young woman he ultimately was accused of raping.
The evidence, Dudek wrote, demonstrates that solely imposing a fine would not provide adequate protection to the health, safety and welfare of the residents.
Jim DeBeaugrine, the states top disability administrator during the Charlie Crist administration, remembers Hillandale which housed many APD clients as a sad, dangerous place his employees sought relentlessly to shut down.
It was really sick, from how it was described to me, said DeBeaugrine, now retired from state government. What was described to me was extreme.
DeBeaugrine praised Dudek for rejecting Quimby-Pennocks recommendation of only a fine.
It takes a little bit of gumption, DeBeaugrine said, to go beyond what the administrative hearing officer recommended.
Shes taken some initiative here, and thank goodness this place is finally coming to an end, he added.