by Max Brantley
Another shoe drops on the state's Human Development Centers, this time the Alexander Center, which houses 110 adult males with severe to profound retardation and other health problems. A state review found problems in emergency transportation, supervision of residents, use of restraints and condition of the facility.
Gov. Mike Beebe has ordered a change of leadership and approved hiring a survey team to recommend improvements at Alexander.
Here's a copy of the inspection report and an incident that led to suspension of the center administrator, Traci Harris, Feb. 5. The report includes accounts of a failure to call ambulances for a resident with a fractured hip, another who choked and another who'd swallowed a battery and two rocks. Descriptions of roach-infested rooms and mildewed bathrooms with rusty tubs are among the facility shortcomings. Inadequate recordkeeping for use of restraints for extended periods also was noted, including one resident kept in a type of wrist restraint for more than three days.
This coincidentally follows by less than a week the federal Justice Department's move to limit admissions at Conway Human Development Center because of resident safety issues and its statement that it was reviewing other centers in the state.
The administrator was restored to her position after completion of the federal review linked above because the one incident to which she was linked couldn't be substantiated as her responsibility. But she was put on leave Saturday, the day after the completed report was received for the general adverse findings. She remains on paid leave, but a spokesman for the governor said she will not return to her position.
BEEBE NEWS RELEASE
Late last week, the Arkansas Department of Human Services completed its annual survey of the care provided at the Alexander Human Development Center (ADHC). The results of that survey show that immediate action is required at ADHC. Reviews of surveys of other facilities, also conducted by the Office of Long Term Care, are ongoing as well.
Under the direction of Governor Mike Beebe, Dr. Charlie Green, the Development Disabilities Services Commissioner, has personally assumed supervisory duties at the ADHC. Dr. Green's role as supervisor is only temporary, as Governor Beebe has approved the hiring of a team of independent experts to determine the necessary long-term steps required to satisfactorily improve the care provided at the facility.
The report completed last week noted serious deficiencies in emergency transportation, supervision of residents, use of restraints, and physical problems with the facility itself.
The ADHC is home to 110 adult males, many of whom have severe physical- and mental-health issues. Finding the proper ways to improve their care is a complex process. Steps have already been taken, including improving staff-to-resident ratio and restructuring the living arrangements within the facility.
Under Arkansas law, the Developmental Disabilities Services Board has authority over administrative changes at all Human Development Centers. They have previously delegated that authority to Dr. Green, who will continue to work closely with the Board as changes are made at the AHDC.