REGIONAL NEWS IN REVIEW- January 2019

Nursing home faces investigation

The Minnesota Department of health (MDH) has announced that a St. Paul nursing home is under federal investigation. Three people have died at Bethel Care Center in the past four years due to ventilator-related neglect. 

“MDH conducts regulatory oversight of licensed nursing homes in Minnesota on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We have shared our findings and concerns with CMS and are working through the federal enforcement process. While there are limits to what details we can share on this ongoing regulatory process, we are committed to working with CMS to ensure that the facility is held fully accountable, issues are fully addressed, and residents are safe,” MDH said in a written statement.

The center is under state scrutiny as its most recent state scorecard, from June 2018, shows it has fallen below the state average in all but two areas. The categories in which the center fell short included resident quality of life, state inspection results and family satisfaction. 

Facility leadership told KSTP-TV that Bethel is working on correction plans and that it is doing so in collaboration with state officials. The facility leadership alsoindicated that it has fared well in recent state inspections.

MDH in early January released its investigation into the death of a 78-year-oldresident. She died after her ventilator stopped for 39 minutes in August 2018. This is the third time since May 2015 that MDH has found that substantiated neglect by Bethel Care Center led to the death of a resident. All three cases stemmed from lack of oversight of people using ventilators.

“This 2018 incident followed substantiated maltreatment cases from 2015 and 2017, in which Bethel was also found to be out of compliance,” said another portion of the MDH statement. “While the facility was found to have made the required changes following the 2015 and 2017 incidents, we are concerned about the sequence of events at Bethel.” (Source: KSTP-TV)

 

 

Housing lawsuit moves ahead

A lawsuit centered on housing access and choice returns to U.S. District
Court January 25. The civil class action was filed in August 2016 by a group of people with disabilities, against the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). The plaintiffs contend that DHS allows very few people to access individualized housing options and refuses to help hundreds of people currently forced to remain in corporately owned and operated group homes. The plaintiffs are asking for help to find and move into homes they choose with services they control, instead of experiencing the isolation, helplessness and lack of control over their lives they currently face.

One argument the plaintiffs have made is that while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is supposed to help people living in the settings of their choice, all too often those choices are limited to group homes.

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit with co-counsel Anthony Ostlund Baer
& Louwagie P.A. the lawsuit has the support of several disability advocacy groups including ARRM.

DHS is asking Judge Donovan Frank to grant summary judgment in its favor,
dismissing the entire case/. DHS is also asking that the case no be treated as a class action. The plaintiffs are asking for a motion of summary judgment to be granted in their favor, on one of five claims. (Source: Access Press staff)

 

Discrimination query is dropped

A federal investigation of a disability-focused discrimination claim against a St. Paul printing and packaging company has been dropped. A worker made the claim after he was fired, and a lawsuit was filed in May 2017. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and ImpressionsInc. have agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed under provisions of the ADA. The former employee, who was diagnosed with depression in 2014, alleged that his diagnosis prompted his firing. He had worked for the company for a decade as a press helper. Impressions, Inc. had challenged that claim and said he had left work early without approval and had behaved badly with other workers.

The company argued that the discrimination claim was unfounded
and should have been investigated more thoroughly before it filed by the EEOC. The EEOC has countered that claims by the company aren’t true but that the dismissal is an unusual result. The EEOC declined to comment further. The dismissal agreement won approval in late 2018 from U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson. It calls for each side to cover its own expenses in connection with the case. (Source: Star Tribune)

Criminals face different outcomes

A caregiver and an interim landlord for people with disabilities faced very different outcomes in recent criminal proceedings. A former employee of a Little Canada group home faces nine year’s imprisonment after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a resident who is physical and cognitively disabled.

Peter Daniel Hackman, 27, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court on one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct that caused injuries to a person with cognitive disabilities. He pleaded guilty to the crime in fall 2018, after a suicide attempt.

The assault occurred in March, Hackman’s attorney said he is remorseful about the crime and takes responsibility for his actions. Another worker at the group home reported the sexual assault.

In a second unrelated case, a Little Canada woman was placed on probation
in December. Anne Marie Lindren, 47, was found guilty of a felony, receiving profits from prostitution. She already served a jail sentence.

Lindgren was accused of forcing a vulnerable adult who was temporarily living with her to work as a prostitute. Two other related charges were dismissed. The victim claimed Lindgren placed an online account for her and that she had sex with 10 to 20 men. Lindgren denied the charge and said she only set up an online account for the woman.

Lindgren also claimed to be a vulnerable adult. (Source: Pioneer Press)

Starkey executives are sentenced

A former executive at Eden Prairie-based hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison in a high profile embezzlement case. The sentence for former Starkey President Jerry Ruzicka was handed down in December. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year prison term.

Other executives were also sentenced, as a long and complex series
of criminal cases winds down.

Ruzicka, 62, was accused of stealing more than $15 million from the
company, its owner Bill Austin and Starkey supplier Sonion. He was part of a circle of employees charged with crimes against the company. Starkey is known for its charitable giving and its events that draw celebrities from around the globe.

A jury convicted Ruzicka in March 2018 of mail, wire and tax fraud. The charges involved the theft of $15.5 million in restricted stock belonging to Austin, stealing Ruzicka’s company Jaguar and creating sham companies to collect fake commissions and fees from Starkey and Sonion.

Former Sonion President W. Jeff Taylor also was convicted on fraud charges and was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. Also sentenced in December were Jeff Longtain, former president of Starkey subsidiary Northland Hearing. He received on year probation, after pleading guilty to tax evasion and testifying against his former bosses.

Former Starkey Chief Financial Officer Scott A. Nelson, the former CFO, pleaded guilty a year ago to one count of conspiracy in the multi-million-dollar fraud against Starkey. He also testified against Ruzicka. He was sentenced to two year’s imprisonment. 

Defendants in the cases also had to forfeit millions of dollars. Those sentenced to prison will report for their sentences in early 2019. In a statement, Starkey says the company is thankful to be nearing the conclusion of the case. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

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