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Papers combine forces to investigate group homes

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Reporters from The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World teamed up to report on Oklahoma’s residential care homes and “Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded,” which are homes for developmentally disabled people. [Oklahoman | Tulsa World]

In their review of more than 40,000 records from federal, state and local agencies, including inspection and investigative reports and letters, the reporters found more than 800 violations, including inappropriate medical care, abuse and neglect. Four cases involved the death of a patient.

Inspectors documented residents who were covered in feces, stolen from, or left to sleep on dirty mattresses.

Some were supervised by felons. Others lived in buildings infested with ants, cockroaches and mice.

At least two people were allegedly raped.

Residential care homes, intended for people who are ambulatory and don’t require routine skilled nursing care, are only inspected once every two years.

The reporters created an online database from the records. The state’s health department is in the process of scanning inspection and investigation reports of group homes to put them on its Web site, a project it expects to complete by the end of the summer.

The report also looks at what a proposed cut in funding might mean for Oklahoma’s group homes and how current shortfalls are delaying community care services for thousands.

The project was done by Tulsa World reporters Ginnie Graham, Gavin Off and Michael Overall and Oklahoman reporters Sonya Colberg, Ann Kelley and Vallery Brown. A sidebar explains more about the series.