News & Events

Mentally challenged men die after transfer to group homes

Mentally challenged men die after transfer to group homes


TEMPLETON —  An advocacy group for the developmentally challenged says the death of a 54-year-old man, less than a week after he was transferred from the state-run Templeton Developmental Center, bolsters their argument to keep state facilities open.

David Kassel, spokesman for the nonprofit Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates Inc., said he has been in contact with the deceased man’s guardian, who is concerned about a possible medication error leading to his death after he was transferred to a state-operated group home in Tewksbury run by Northeast Residential Services.

The man died of a blood clot to his lung four days after he was transferred, Mr. Kassel said.

The guardian does not want the deceased man’s name published, Mr. Kassel said. The medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results.

The man had lived for years at the Templeton Developmental Center.

He had been in excellent health prior to his transfer, according to a letter of concern from state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, to the state Department of Developmental Services.

DDS, citing confidentiality and privacy regulations, declined to provide information about the former Templeton resident’s case to Mr. Kassel, who said his organization obtained information about the death from its sources and the examiner’s office.

Mr. Brewer’s letter urged DDS, which was formerly known as the Department of Mental Retardation, to investigate the death and determine if corrective actions are needed to ensure health and safety.

The senator also asked DDS Commissioner Elin M. Howe to “terminate additional transfers to this home until the investigation is complete and any outstanding issues that may have led to this unfortunate event have been addressed.”

Jennifer Kritz, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said state and federal privacy rules restrict her from providing details of individual consumers. But she confirmed that two people served by DDS had died. She said the agency’s deepest condolences go to their families and loved ones, and both deaths are under investigation.

Mr. Kassel said group homes do not have the same standards of care as the state’s six developmental centers.

In another case that Mr. Kassel said brought into question the quality of group-home care, a man who had lived most of his life at the Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham died last month of aspiration pneumonia after swallowing a plastic shopping bag at the group home in which he had been living for about a year.

Mr. Kassel said he obtained information about the man’s death through the Disabled Persons Protection Commission and the man’s death certificate.

“These people have lived most of their lives at the developmental centers,” Mr. Kassel said of the former Templeton and Fernald residents. “They died within a relatively short period of time after having been transferred to group homes. In each case, we have some questions about the level of supervision that they received in the group homes — whether that might have contributed to their deaths.”

The state plans to close the Templeton, Fernald and Monson development centers and the Glavin Regional Center in Shrewsbury by the end of fiscal 2013.

The state has said that the Wrentham Developmental Center will remain open indefinitely to serve individuals in the closing facilities who choose to remain under intermediate care. A decision has yet to be made about the sixth state facility, the Hogan Regional Center in Danvers.

Mr. Kassel said the state administration seems to be behind with its plan. Fernald, which was first on the list of closures, was slated to be shut down by July 2010, but it still has 14 residents whose guardians are appealing transfers, he said.

The two recent deaths speak to the argument for keeping state facilities open, Mr. Kassel said.

“The developmental centers have a higher level of staffing and supervision and care that is available, even in the state-run group home system and privately run vendor system,” he said. “We do feel that there’s an argument to be made that these people might still be alive today had they not been transferred.”