Burlington County residents may be disturbed to hear that one developmentally disabled woman who resided in a Bellwether Behavioral Health group home choked to death at the facility while eating a cheeseburger and French fries. This is despite the family’s instructions that the woman’s food should be cut into small pieces and that she should be monitored while eating to ensure she didn’t eat too much, too fast. Her family is pursuing legal action.
According to one source, around 8,000 intellectually or developmentally disabled people in New Jersey reside in group homes that are licensed by the state. Bellwether, the location of this recent incident, is the largest group home provider in New Jersey. It is a hedge-fund-owned business.
However, information from residents’ loved ones and information found in lawsuits, police reports and licensing records show that the facilities were often dirty and understaffed. Residents with special dietary needs were not fed the right food and inattention led to injuries due to falls or physical assault by other residents. In fact, some residents experienced abuse by the facilities’ workers, the very same workers who were supposed to be caring for these residents. From June 2017 to June 2018, Bellwether facilities stated that there were 18 incidents of residents being abused or neglected.
The New Jersey Department of Human Services is ceasing its relationship with Bellwether, and residents will be transferred to other providers. However, the damage has already been done. The deplorable conditions and treatment at Bellwether facilities has led to injuries and fatalities. Those whose loved ones were injured or died at these facilities must now find a way to move on, knowing their loved one’s death likely could have been prevented had proper care been taken.
When it comes to nursing home abuse, it is important that facilities that allow such abuse to continue are held accountable. Sometimes this means pursuing a personal injury lawsuit when a loved one is injured or killed due to the negligence of the staff at a residential care facility. Such claims can provide the victim or the victim’s survivors with compensation for the damages they suffered, such as medical expenses, loss of companionship, pain and suffering and more.