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Group home deaths shocking

Special to SEGAZINE

THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom is that people with developmental disabilities get better treatment in community settings than in a state hospital.

That’s because hospitals are sometimes viewed as stark warehouses, while group homes aren’t as large, are less formal and are considered more homey.

But smaller isn’t always better.

In fact, it may be worse.

According to a shocking report by Georgia Health News this week, almost 10 percent of the 480 people with developmental disabilities who have moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 have died after their placement in community residences.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, when asked about deaths after hospital transfers, said that 44 occurred from mid-2010 to early May of this year.

On Sunday, an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described horrific incidents of abuse or neglect following the transfer of these patients into group homes. It cited a slightly lower number of deaths during this period — 40. It reported that 30 of those deaths were classified as unexpected and that many of those deaths appeared to be from natural causes.

Whether it’s 44 deaths or 40 deaths, there’s a serious problem here. State officials must root out the causes and fix them.

The AJC article also reported that officials documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse, 48 reports of neglect and 60 reports of accidental injuries. Those numbers are troubling as well. Abuse and neglect are crimes under state law. It makes little difference whether they occur in a hospital, a group home or a private home.

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