We’ve received a report of a second intellectually disabled man who died in the past two months after being transferred to a community-based group home from a state developmental center.
In this second case, the 50-year-old man died suddenly of aspiration pneumonia and a bowel obstruction on July 6, according to the City of Lowell Clerk’s Office, where the death certificate is on file.
According to sources, the man, who had a history of ingesting foreign objects, died after swallowing a plastic shopping bag in the state-run group home. He had reportedly lived in the group home for about a year after having lived for most of his life at the Fernald Developmental Center.
We are withholding his name until we can obtain permission to use it from his guardian.
A staff person with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission said the man’s death is under investigation, but would not comment on the cause of death.
Sources said the staff at the Fernald Center had been aware of the man’s tendency to ingest foreign objects, a condition known as pica, and had watched him closely to prevent him from doing so. We have received reports that the level of supervision in the group home regarding the man’s pica condition was not as high as it had been at Fernald.
We reported earlier this week about another man who died suddenly of a blood clot in his lung in a group home on July 24, four days after having been transferred there from the Templeton Developmental Center. Both Fernald and Templeton are among four developmental centers that have been targeted by the Patrick administration for closure.
In both cases, the men had been transferred to state-operated group homes operated by Northeast Residential Services, a division of the Department of Developmental Services. DDS has refused to discuss or provide any information about these deaths, citing confidentiality and privacy regulations.
We have raised concerns about at least one other incident involving potential lack of supervision in a Northeast Residential Services group home. In that case, a resident of a Norteast Regional Services home in Chelmsford left the residence unsupervised in May and attempted to rape a pregnant woman who lived next door.
State Senator Stephen Brewer of Barre, whose district includes the Templeton Developmental Center, said in an email to COFAR that he had been made aware of the death of the former Templeton resident and has asked DDS Commissioner Elin Howe to investigate it. Brewer said he has also asked Howe to halt further transfers to the group home until the investigation is complete.
We think DDS needs to come out from behind its confidentiality veil and take a fresh look at the level of oversight and supervision in its community-based system of care.