The death last month of an intellectually disabled man, who was allegedly assaulted at the Templeton Developmental Center by a resident there, appears to raise questions about the dangerousness of the people being admitted to the facility and the adequacy of the staffing and supervision there.
Dennis Perry, 64, was allegedly assaulted on September 16 by Anthony Remillard, 22, while the two men were working at the Templeton facility’s dairy barn. At the time, Perry was a resident of a group home and was working in the barn on a daily basis.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Perry had allegedly been shoved by Remillard into a boiler in the barn and suffered a serious head injury. The incident occurred in front of two staff members whose statements indicated the attack was unprovoked, according to the newspaper, which was quoting from a State Police report of the incident. Perry died on September 27 at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Prior to his admission to Templeton, Remillard had been charged in a May 6, 2012 arson in a vacant building in Worcester, according to the newspaper. At his arraignment on that charge, prosecutors recommended that Remillard be evaluated at either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital. But the recommendation was rejected by the judge, and Remillard was allowed to enter a “pre-trial release commitment” at Templeton.
The Templeton Center, located in Baldwinville in central Massachusetts, has been marked for closure since 2008. The facility is scheduled to be converted into state-operated group homes from its current status as an Intermediate Care Facility for the developmentally disabled (ICF/DD).
Paula Perry, Dennis Perry’s sister, said she and other family members were told by the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office that Remilard’s attorney didn’t feel that either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital would be a safe environment for his client, and Remillard “was okayed to go to Templeton.” She said her family was unaware that there were any residents with criminal backgrounds or criminal charges at Templeton. They only found out about Remillard’s previous arrest on the arson charge after reading about it in the newspaper.
Paula Perry added that she understands that Templeton had the option of refusing to accept Remillard. “Why they would accept someone like that I don’t know,” she said.
While Templeton has historically accepted individuals with criminal backgrounds as residents, those persons have in the past been carefully evaluated as to their level of dangerousness prior to admission, according to Bonnie Valade, a COFAR Board member and the mother of a Templeton resident.
At this point, we don’t know if Remillard has an intellectual disability or not. If he does have ID, it might have been appropriate to have considered him for admission to Templeton. However, Dennis Perry’ death does appear to raise questions about whether Remillard should have been there and whether the staff supervision of him was adequate. Here was someone who had an allegedly violent criminal past and who was allegedly capable of unprovoked violence. To us, the two linked questions here are: Why was Remillard admitted to Templeton over the objection of the DA, and why was he allegedly able, once there, to attack and fatally injure someone?
We sent an email request on Monday to DDS Commissioner Elin Howe, seeking the Department’s policies and procedures regarding both admission to Templeton, and staff supervision of residents who have either behavioral problems or criminal convictions or charges on their records. We want to know specifically whether persons who are not intellectually disabled are ever sent to Templeton, and whether any of the Department’s policies regarding admissions and staffing have changed since Templeton was slated for closure in 2008.
Since 2008, the Patrick administration has significantly phased down operations at two ICFs/DD — Templeton and the Fernald Developmental Centers, and closed two others — the Glavin Regional Center and the Monson Developmental Center. ICFs/DD are required to meet strict federal standards for treatment and staffing that do not apply to group homes and other community-based residential settings in Massachusetts and other states.
Since 2008, Templeton’s residential population has been reduced from 123 to 42. Valade maintains that as the population there has gone down, both staffing and services at the center have been steadily reduced as well. Here is what Valade had to say about Templeton in an email in the wake of Dennis Perry’s death. The situation she describes may have a bearing on the case:
Shortly after the (Templeton) closure was announced, the staff that had been there started to leave. I was reminded that none were let go. Well, no one had to be told to leave…if you are told your place of employment is closing you look elsewhere for work. So they lost the best staff. These staff members had been there for years, which made them the best qualified staff I have ever known, and the clients felt like they were family.
… I am in fear for my son…with his issues he could have been the Dennis (Perry) or the Anthony (Remillard). For years I have felt my son was in a safe environment, and now here I am worried sick about his care.
No one with a family member in the DDS system should be worried sick about their care. The Department can help by providing answers as soon as possible to the questions we’ve asked about their admissions and staffing policies at Templeton. And we hope the Department cooperates fully with the Perry family, in particular, in providing the answers they are seeking in this case.