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June 2012
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Agency finds problems at group home for men

Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A new report says Adult Protective Services has not properly investigated abuse allegations at a Lexington group home for disabled men.

The report by Protection and Advocacy suggests one of the reasons for the failure is because officials are concerned that if the Messner Home is closed the men there will have nowhere to go.

The home consists of three buildings, one of which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Courts have found that the remainder of the home is not required to be regulated or licensed by the state.

An investigation two decades ago found "filthy mattresses, insect infestation, soiled rooms and physical plant deterioration."

Protection and Advocacy, an independent state agency that protects and promotes the rights of people with disabilities, first began interviewing residents at Messner Home in August 2011 as part of a larger project to monitor Social Security benefits for people with disabilities.

Its report released last week found that some of the same problems identified in the 1990s persist. Problems identified in the new report include inadequate bathing facilities, lack of bedding, bed bugs and general uncleanliness and disrepair of the facility.

Other problems include a diabetes patient who did not receive special diet, a mentally ill resident from another country who had lived there for two years without being told there were other housing options, and an 18-year-old who had aged out of foster care and was not receiving mental health services.

The report also describes complaints of abuse at the home. In one case, a staff member was accused of assaulting a resident and breaking the man's foot. When Protection and Advocacy asked what had been done to investigate, the Adult Protective Services investigator said she had not interviewed witnesses, only the injured resident, who could not explain what had happened.

Protection and Advocacy pressed the issue, and the investigator then interviewed a staff member who was married to the alleged perpetrator. Under further pressure, the investigator finally interviewed the perpetrator and witness. Only verbal abuse was substantiated and the perpetrated continued to work at Messner.

In another incident, Protection and Advocacy staff found a resident who was "sunburned with clothes falling off and bruises and scratches on his eye and cheek. The man was confused and frightened and could not explain his injuries," the report said.

Adult Protective Services was called, but investigators said they could not find caretaker neglect because Messner staff were not in a "care-taking role."

A written statement from Adult Protective Services says the department took the allegations of abuse at Messner seriously and addressed them immediately. The agency declined to address any specific cases.

Despite the problems at Messner Home, Protection and Advocacy Director Marsha Hockensmith is hopeful that the facility will turn around after a change of ownership in February. The home was purchased by longtime employee Martha Bell, who has applied for a state boarding home license. If approved, that will give the state real oversight of the facility at last.

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