Ms. Ross worked at a central Florida high school before being hired at Integra, which says it provides “a more integrated, collaborative and comprehensive approach to managing the health needs” of an insurance company’s “most costly and complex members.”
“This is an especially tragic loss,” Dee Brown, Integra’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Stephanie joined Integra to improve the lives of disadvantaged people struggling in the community with chronic illnesses, and believed strongly in our mission and goals in serving these individuals.”
Ms. Brown told the Lakeland Ledger that Ms. Ross visited Mr. Smith four times. Ms. Brown told the newspaper that Integra staff members are trained that if they are ever concerned for their safety, they can have other staff accompany them on their visits. Ms. Brown wouldn’t comment on Ms. Ross‘ specific case.
Advocates long have pressed for better security measures for social workers and home health caseworkers, who frequently are sent into potentially dangerous situations. Some note that social workers go into homes armed only with clipboards and laptops.
In 2004, Teri Zenner was fatally attacked with a knife and chain saw while visiting a client in Overland Park, Kan., to make sure he was taking his medication. The attacker later was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2010, the state’s governor signed a law requiring social workers to take six hours of safety awareness the first time they apply to have their license renewed.
In an email, Ms. Brown said the company was helping law enforcement.
“We take the safety and well-being of our employees very seriously and are committed to assuring ongoing compliance with existing safety practices and incorporation of measures that might further reduce avoidable risk to our employees,” Brown said.
Kelli Kennedy reported from Miami.
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