JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Step inside Marcie Hall’s house and she’ll tell you all about the woman who shaped its foundation. Anza Hall left her daughter with decades of wonderful memories, but her happy life took a heartbreaking turn in the years leading up to her death.
In 2000, the woman who loved helping others, became helpless. A stroke forced her into a nursing home.
“It made me sad every day I walked into that nursing home,” Hall said. “She had this crooked little smile, because of her stroke and I’d walk in there and she’d say, ‘Hello darling,’ and I miss that. I miss that.”
Anza may have been smiling, but inside her daughter knew she was hurting.
“She wasn’t happy with the life she was having to lead in bed and having to depend on others to care for her,” Hall said.
It was especially sad for her considering one of her caretakers was verbally abusing her.
“I would just get real upset and she would always say, ‘Now don’t make them mad, don’t make them mad, they’ll take it out on me,'” Hall said.
That cycle of abuse ended in 2010 when two fellow employees spoke up and investigators arrested Amanda Tibble.
“I do apologize for my actions and I do hate that it caused the mental anguish on her that it did,” Tibble said during her sentencing hearing.
The former nursing assistant has since served time for mentally abusing Hall and another patient and for hurting two others. Today, Tibble’s name is on the Tennessee Abuse Registry and she’s not alone. 46 other abusers call Washington County home. Still, that’s nothing compared to Greene County and its 77 abusers.
“It makes me sad to think that where I grew up and where I’ve lived most of my life, that the highest count of abuses are there,” Hall said. “It’s just heartbreaking. It’s just heart wrenching.”
In all, the Tri-Cities region is home to 193 known abusers; people who have hurt the elderly and injured those with disabilities. Tennessee monitors those people on a statewide abuse registry.
An analysis of that registry revealed that Greene and Washington counties are home to more abusers than almost every other county in the state. Greene County ranks 5th behind only the home counties of Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Washington County ranks 7th.
In Greene County, roughly two-thirds of the known abusers did not work in nursing homes. Instead, they cared for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
|Number of abusers
on the registry
by county statewide
Number of abusers
Six of them worked at the state-operated Greene Valley Developmental Center. The remaining 44 worked for other state-contracted agencies.
The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the agency responsible for helping people with intellectual disabilities, says these numbers in Greene and Washington counties are not as bad as they seem.
Instead, Commissioner Debbie Payne says they show the state’s proactive abuse reporting system is working. It’s a system designed to stop abuse and (with the help of the abuse registry) prevent abusers from ultimately finding another job in the industry.
“We have found that to be extremely beneficial in not allowing people to repeat offenses with other providers,” Payne said. “We send a message loud and clear through all of our providers and caregivers that we do not accept or tolerate abuse, neglect and exploitation and I can tell you, over the years, our providers take that very seriously. I wouldn’t judge a provider on the number of people placed on the abuse registry, because it really means they take it seriously that people are treated well. It sounds like a lot probably, but we believe in the abuse registry system and are interested in not only protecting our population, but any vulnerable population.”
According to Payne, her department has a very specific incident reporting system. She says DIDD really started using the abuse registry in 2004 as part of the department’s Protection from Harm Unit.
All that said, State Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) says there still needs to be more of a discussion about the issue in Nashville.
“I’m concerned,” Sen. Crowe said after learning our findings. “I really do sincerely want to bring this to the Health Committee’s attention.”
Sen. Crowe is Chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. He says it’s time to consider stiffer penalties for people convicted of abusing multiple adults. He and prosecutors say that crime should come with a punishment of eight to 30 years in prison instead of just one to six years behind bars.
“This would be a good year, if I’m thinking about this especially, to call for some hearings on elder abuse and adult abuse,” Sen. Crowe said.
“Maybe the problem is our hiring process, our background checks and knowing who we’re hiring and what kind of people we’re getting. The helpless are much like the children. Why can’t we mirror the child abuse statutes with the elder abuse statutes? We can try that.”
If successful, people will have Anza Hall to thank. In her last days, she couldn’t remember the abuse she endured. Her daughter though can’t forget. That’s why she’s pushing legislators for change.
“I went back in later and said, ‘Mother, do you remember what she did to you?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t.’ and I said, ‘That’s good,'” Hall recalled.
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