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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

State Of West Virginia Promises To Fix Abuse, Neglect In Group Homes

DHHR Deputy Sec. Jeremiah Samples speaks to West Virginia lawmakers at the Capitol.

State officials said Tuesday they will fix widespread abuse and neglect issues that have occurred over the past four years at group homes for the mentally disabled across the state.

The Department of Health and Human Resources responded to a report compiled by the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, which was presented to state lawmakers last May.

“We will work on this until we get it resolved,” said DHHR Deputy Sec. Jeremiah Samples to the Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability Tuesday.

Mistreatment and neglect have been rampant in state-funded homes for those with mental or behavioral issues, according to OHFLAC’s findings. Delaying medical care, constraining and punishing patients in abusive ways, and letting patients live in filthy, broken homes have been common throughout the state. Several patients have died.

Samples says one patient died since the report was released. He said that the patient was emaciated and that more action is needed to “just to make sure they aren’t being starved, frankly.”

Some homes have been closed down since May.

Samples offered solutions to lawmakers Tuesday, including prosecuting abusive homes harder, raising worker wages, moving away from larger institutional settings, and sending adult protective services to these homes more frequently.

“More eyes on folks is going to help the situation,” Samples said.

Samples does see roadblocks ahead. In his presentation, he said some solutions could cost $50 million annually. The widespread current worker shortage is hitting the behavioral health sector as well.

There are more than 500 West Virginians living in these homes.

“This is going to require sustained attention,” Samples said. “No one is speaking for these folks.”

Appalachia Health News Reporter, jleffler@wvpublic.org, 502-377-0438, @june_leffler

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