- Associated Press - Sunday, April 6, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Officials in Oconto, Shawano and Kewaunee counties continued placing sick and indigent people in assisted-living homes even though the facilities had a history of operational concerns, according to a published report.

Staffers at the four facilities harmed residents mentally or physically by forcibly restraining them, drugging them into stupors or leaving them together with violent records, according to state inspection reports reviewed by Press-Gazette Media (http://gbpg.net/1e4anx4 ).

The state inspected the facilities for abuse six times in eight years and issued hundreds of citations for violations since 2000. Abuse complaints in 2006 and 2013 were substantiated.

Regulators notified the counties each time enforcement actions were taken against a facility serving one of their residents, said Otis Woods, administrator for the state Department of Health Services‘ division of quality assurance.

Even so, the three counties continued using the facilities to place people who’d been ordered by a court to receive treatment

Shawano and Oconto counties renewed contracts to keep placing residents there through 2014, while Kewaunee County said it would be reluctant to work with the facilities in the future.

The state’s inspection reports cite a number of instances where residents were mentally or physically harmed.

In one case, a 44-year-old with a traumatic brain injury was found lying in a ditch 500 feet away from the Kewaunee County building, his wheelchair overturned. Staffers told inspectors they didn’t know he was gone. A few weeks later the man was discovered to have a broken nose, and again staffers said they couldn’t explain what happened.

In another case, staffers at an Oconto County facility locked a 56-year-old man who had obsessive-compulsive disorder out of his bedroom and bathroom, causing him to soil himself.

Shawano County Corporation Counsel Tony Kordus says the county promptly removed two people from a facility after learning about abuse there. He said the county should be applauded for reporting the issue, which he said helped prevent the abuse from continuing.

Oconto County renewed a 1-year, $400,000 contract with two of the facilities with histories of issues. Craig Johnson, the county’s director of health and human services, said he couldn’t discuss the issue.

“I’ve been told we’re not going to comment,” he said. “There’s things still going on in that facility. This is a small community.”

In Kewaunee County, spokesman Greg Thousand said he took over the human services department in July and couldn’t comment on anything that happened before then.

“Given recent history, we’d be exceedingly reluctant to work with this entity,” he said.

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