DIDD living up to promise to alert DA of abuse, neglect cases

GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A year after our Community Watchdog investigation uncovered criminal abuse cases falling through the cracks at Greene Valley Developmental Center, Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong says the system is now better protecting some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable adults.

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities changed the way it reports abuse and neglect cases in Armstrong’s district after our investigation.

“I feel like we’re getting the cases we should get,” Armstrong said. “They’ve been very consistent in sending what I think they should send to us.”

Our investigation found DIDD rarely reported cases of abuse and neglect at GVDC and East Tennessee Homes to police and prosecutors.

Public records show in all of 2016, DIDD investigators substantiated six cases, five at GVDC and one at ETH. All of the 2016 cases were related to neglect, not abuse. According to those records, two employees tested positive for drugs, three cases involved people who reportedly fell and suffered minor injuries because employees failed to buckle them properly and the last found staff failed to connect a man to his oxygen.

A DIDD spokesperson says one of the employees found to be under the influence at GVDC resigned. Meanwhile, she said DIDD fired the ETH employee linked to a resident who fell off a golf cart. She said the other four linked to the GVDC substantiated neglects cases are still working at the facility.

After Armstrong’s review, he did not file charges, saying the neglect cases were not criminal in nature. However, he says he’s relieved he’s now part of the decision making process.

“We don’t want any to fall through the cracks,” he said. “That’s our goal.”

Rep. David Hawk (R), TN-District 5, says he welcomes the extra layer of protection.

“Safety of our most fragile Tennesseans has always been my prime goal,” Rep. Hawk said. “I know going forward, I want to make sure that every case is fully investigated, in the public’s view and we know exactly what’s going on.”

After we started asking questions in early 2016 about past cases, Armstrong opened two criminal investigations. In January a former GVDC employee pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated assault linked to allegations she slapped a woman in the face with a shoe in December 2014. As part of her guilty plea, she agreed to never work with vulnerable people again. DIDD originally alerted police about her case and one other, but Armstrong said neither case originally made it to prosecutors.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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