State lawmaker alarmed by number of Greene Valley abuse, neglect cases

GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL) Of the 250 substantiated cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation at Greene Valley Developmental Center since 2002, Rep. David Hawk, (R) – District 5, says at best, he can only remember ever hearing of one of those cases.

“It’s alarming whenever the first time I hear any of this is from you,” he said after we shared our findings.

As we first reported Sunday, our Community Watchdog investigation prompted Third District Attorney General Dan Armstrong to open two criminal investigations. Both investigations stem from separate 2014 incidents, according to Armstrong.

One is a case of reported shoving, dragging and slapping that the Tusculum Police Department forgot to investigate. The other involves the reported slapping of a resident in the face with a shoe. Although both Greene Valley employees lost their jobs as a result, neither faced criminal charges.

“What you’re telling me is very concerning,” Rep. Hawk said when we told him about the number of GVDC cases. “I have not heard any instance of the abuse, neglect or exploitation that you’ve expressed, so this is a surprise to me.”

Our review of public records revealed employees asleep, drunk and on drugs on the job. We also discovered workers forgetting about their patients. In one case an employee reportedly left a woman on the toilet for an hour-and-a-half.

We also discovered nine substantiated cases of physical abuse since 2009. Of all the cases we told Rep. Hawk about the only one he could vaguely remember hearing is when two GVDC drivers left residents in a van so they could stop by a garage sale.

He says he never heard about the time a van driver reportedly drove so erratically his passenger was terrified and repeatedly screamed “Home.” He says he never heard about the cases of mysterious injuries and never heard reports of a worker slapping someone in the face with a shoe or another employee shoving a woman, dragging her by her feet and smacking her.

“I’m not going to deflect or make excuses for this state, because there’s really no excuses,” he said. “None of these should have occurred.”

Not only that, the lawmaker argues the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities should have informed legislators about all of these cases.

“We need to know these situations,” Rep. Hawk said. “We need to know if something’s going on.”

“Are you disappointed you didn’t know?” we asked.

“I am disappointed,” he said. “I’m disappointed that this has become news to me.”

From a law enforcement perspective, the district attorney felt the same way about all of the substantiated abuse and neglect cases; many of which went unreported to police.

“It should have been brought to our attention,” Armstrong said.

Of the 12 substantiated abuse cases since 2009, DIDD only called police twice; the only two cases where internal investigators found evidence of injuries.

“Looking back on it, should there have been more communication about how you handle these situations?” we asked DIDD Communications Director Cara Kumari.

“Honestly, I would say this, we have to follow privacy rules,” she responded.

According to Kumari, the agency handled every one of its cases properly through its internal process.

“What we see is a system that works really hard to identify egregious acts and remove bad actors from the system,” she said.

Several cases resulted in employees losing their jobs and Kumari says every case resulted in corrective action.

“It is never our intent to keep things hidden from the public,” she said.

From now on, the district attorney wants DIDD to refer every substantiated abuse and neglect case to his office and police.

Rep. Hawk says he was shocked to learn so many of the cases never resulted in prosecution.

“It’s important that all parties be held accountable,” he said. “You would hope that if any of those cases rose to that level that prosecution would occur.”

Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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