Desert Regional Center Changes Following Investigations of Abuse - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Abuse Allegations Lead to Changes

Posted: Updated:
Jakob Bluel Jakob Bluel
Oscar Morales Oscar Morales
Desert Research Center Desert Research Center

LAS VEGAS -- An I-Team investigation and congressional action have created changes in how Nevada treats mentally disabled adults.

In February, the I-Team looked into claims of patients with broken teeth, blackened eyes and deep bruising. Since then one employee was fired and policies were changed.

The I-Team's investigation and the work of local attorney Adam Graff created a new way of doing things at Desert Regional Center. Allegations of physical abuse of patients by employees have seemingly halted, but parents are still telling the I-Team there is a long way to go before they're certain their loved ones are safe.

The I-team obtained pictures of severely autistic Desert Regional Center patients with bloodied faces, chipped teeth and blackened eyes. Family members of patients Jakob Bluel and Oscar Morales told the I-Team their loved ones were forced to fight each other for the amusement of staff members.

"Harry said it's time for a snack so I came out. Brian went around the corner and gave me a black eye," Bluel told the I-Team in a Feb. 2013 interview.

A third patient, Mike Hicks, said he was knocked out when he accidentally startled a DRC employee sleeping on the job.

"He stood up and struck me in the head with a hole puncher. A big hole puncher. Not a little one. One of the heavy ones," Hicks said.

Police and DRC officials investigated, but could not find enough evidence to move forward. After the stories of alleged abuse were aired on channel 8, Congresswoman Dina Titus called for an independent review.

New administrator Jane Gruner changed several policies at DRC. The center also fired employee Harry Daniels after he was accused of multiple abuses. However, Bluel's father is still worried for his son.

"The real issue is not the physical abuse right now, but it's the verbal abuse, the mental abuse," Peter Bluel said.

He adds the DRC gave Jakob a hockey helmet to wear after they imposed activity limitations leading to new outbursts. Jakob is now at Rawson-Neal State Hospital which is the same place gaining notoriety for busing patients out of state. Jakob is finding help there, his father said, and he no longer has to wear his helmet for protection.

"Because at Rawson-Neal, they know how to defuse the situation. These people are trained at Rawson-Neal to defuse Jakob. Over at DRC, they escalate it," Peter Bluel said.

DRC officials say they are re-training employees and increasing supervision. Mike Hicks' mother Patsy said she's happy to hear Nevada plans to hire more employees at DRC to increase patient activities, but she also fears that future accusations of abuse will remain unanswered.

"They need cameras, they need to listen to their patients, not just think that because they have a mental issue, that they lie," Patsy Hicks said.

Oscar Morales and his father moved to Texas. The family's attorney says Oscar is getting better care out of state.

These families were thrust together, not by the challenging disabilities their son's face, but by the mysterious injuries they've suffered. Desert Regional Center declined an on-camera interview.

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services released a statement about changes being made at DRC.

It said in part, "The potential use of video cameras in certain areas of DRC homes will help improve quality and assess for continuous program improvement. Cameras will assist to correct bad behaviors, by either staff or residents, and hold accountable those responsible for injury to others. In addition, the presence of the cameras will help deter and/or eliminate the potential for abuse or neglect. The Division Deputy Attorney General will provide legal counsel on the placement of the cameras to ensure the privacy of DRC residents' is maintained. Furthermore, approval must be sought from the Commission on Behavioral Health."

 

 

  • Las Vegas NewsLas Vegas NewsMore>>

  • Police investigate double stabbing

    Police investigate double stabbing

    Friday, April 18 2014 9:17 PM EDT2014-04-19 01:17:18 GMT
    Two people suffering stab wounds were rushed to the hospital Friday afternoon, Metro Police said.More>>
    Two people suffering stab wounds were rushed to the hospital Friday afternoon, Metro Police said.More>>
  • Street performers peeved over downtown bathroom ban

    Street performers peeved over downtown bathroom ban

    Friday, April 18 2014 9:48 PM EDT2014-04-19 01:48:54 GMT
    Street performers bring a lot of entertainment to the Fremont Street Experience, but some of their say they are being forced out of the area when it comes to taking a bathroom break.More>>
    Street performers bring a lot of entertainment to the Fremont Street Experience, but some of their say they are being forced out of the area when it comes to taking a bathroom break.More>>
  • Coroner's office identifies 2-year-old hit by car

    Coroner's office identifies 2-year-old hit by car

    Saturday, April 19 2014 5:44 PM EDT2014-04-19 21:44:02 GMT
    The coroner's office has released the name of the little girl struck and killed by a car this week.More>>
    The coroner's office has released the name of the little girl struck and killed by a car this week.More>>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.