NASGA is a public interest civil rights organization founded by several victims and for victims of unlawful and abusive guardianship and conservatorship cases. Please visit our website at www.StopGuardianAbuse.org for more information on how you can help stop guardian abuse.
LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A Las Vegas personal injury lawyer has been arrested in a theft case stretching back years.
Beginning in March, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detectives began to receive reports from multiple victims regarding a local personal injury lawyer. Victims that have to this date filed police reports, all allege that their personal injury attorney, later identified as 53-year-old Matthew Dunkley, misappropriated financial settlements the victims were to receive as a result of their cases in which Dunkley represented them.
The reports indicated that Dunkley, in addition to misappropriating the settlements to the victims, also took money from the insurance companies that were intended to cover the victims’ medical bills. The victims never received their settlements and are now being held personally responsible for the unpaid medical bills.
On Monday, Dunkley was located by detectives with the LVMPD Major Violators Section Repeat Offender Program and taken into custody. He was transported to the Clark County Detention Center where he faces at least 39 counts of theft.
As of his arrest, detectives believe approximately $1.8 million was taken from victims.
Detectives are asking any additional clients of Dunkley Law who may be awaiting settlements and were victimized by this scheme, to contact the LVMPD Theft Crimes Bureau at 702-828-3483.
Clear Counsel Law Group has assumed some of the cases, but these clients may still have been victimized by Dunkley.
In 2017, the Nevada bar asked Clear Counsel to assist Mr. Dunkley's former clients with open legal matters. Clear Counsel Law Group has no other relationship with Mr. Dunkley.
Many of these cases were from personal injury cases that had occurred as far back as 2012, and one of the incidents involved a 5-year-old child who had been the victim of a dog attack. These victims also filed complaints with the State Bar of Nevada.
According to the website of the State Bar of Nevada, Dunkley was suspended from practicing law in October of 2017.
A grandson of Sumner Redstone is asking that a guardian ad litem be named to protect the 95-year-old media mogul’s interests in his legal battles with a former live-in companion, court papers obtained Monday show.
Tyler Korff’s petition, filed last Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, states the guardian ad litem will “safeguard the actual and perceived integrity of the proceedings to all interested parties and the public.”
Korff recommends that either Jackson Chen or Samuel Ingham III be appointed on Redstone’s behalf. Both are probate attorneys and Ingham has represented Britney Spears in her ongoing conservatorship imposed by a judge in 2008 after the singer exhibited bizarre behavior.
Redstone has an open case against Manuela Herzer that seeks to recover assets he alleges she wrongfully extracted from him. The case is set for trial in February 2020, but Redstone’s lawyers are asking for a date in 2019 because of their client’s age.
Herzer’s lawyers filed court papers asking that any decision on rescheduling the trial be delayed until the pending application for the appointment of a guardian ad litem, set for a hearing on Dec. 17, is decided.
Lawyers for the former chairman of CBS and Viacom have argued their client is not incapacitated and that the guardian ad litem’s role would be to protect the billionaire’s interests and argue on his behalf. But Herzer’s lawyers say the application bolsters their contention that Redstone is not competent to control the litigation and that it is actually being directed by his daughter, Shari, a longtime Herzer adversary. Redstone’s lawyers filed court papers stating they support Korff’s guardian ad litem petition.
Korff’s court papers state that Redstone “suffers from a number of health conditions, including most notably a severe speech impairment that limits his ability to communicate verbally.”
Meanwhile a hearing is scheduled Wednesday on a motion by Herzer’s lawyers to take Korff’s deposition in advance of the Dec. 17 hearing.
“Herzer believes that it is urgent that the deposition of Korff be taken prior to the hearing of the (guardian ad litem) petition in order that the underlying basis for the petition can be ascertained and so the relationship between Korff and the two persons nominated to act as GAL (can) be determined,” Herzer’s court papers state.
In addition, there has been no explanation from Korff about how he learned that Redstone wanted a guardian ad litem, nor has evidence been presented that the grandson has recently seen Redstone or communicated with his grandfather, according to Herzer’s court papers.
Redstone’s alleged agreement with his grandson’s petition is not evidence that he has consented to anything or has the capacity to do so, according to Herzer’s court papers, which state that a “deposition is critical to explore these facts.”
Herzer alleges in a separate lawsuit that Shari Redstone convinced the nurses serving her father to turn him against Herzer, who was forced to move out of the billionaire’s home in 2015. In her complaint filed in May 2016, Herzer maintains that the October 2015 revision of the Redstone trust deprived her of her claims to $50 million in cash and to Redstone’s Beverly Park mansion, which is valued at $20 million.
Trial of Herzer’s suit is scheduled for December 2019.
Nashville, Tenn. — Eleven months ago, a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center accidentally selected the wrong medicine while attempting to give a patient a routine sedative, injecting the patient with a lethal dose of a paralyzing anesthetic.
The error, which caused the death of an otherwise stable patient, briefly jeopardized the Medicare reimbursement status of one of Nashville’s largest and most prestigious hospitals.
About one fifth of the hospital's revenue comes from Medicare payments, according to the hospital's recent quarterly report, so the error had the potential to throw the hospital's finances into chaos.
However, federal officials announced Thursday they had accepted a corrective plan submitted by Vanderbilt, so the hospital's status was no longer in question.
John Howser, a VUMC spokesman, said the plan was submitted earlier this month and revised as recently as this week. The hospital had already taken “necessary corrective actions," Howser said.
“In reviewing the event at the time it happened, we identified that the error occurred because a staff member had bypassed multiple safety mechanisms that were in place to prevent such errors,” Howser said. “We disclosed the error to the patient’s family as soon as we confirmed that an error had occurred, and immediately took necessary corrective actions (including appropriate personnel actions).”
An investigation report released by Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services details how the error was the result of the nurse confusing two medicines because their names started with the same letters.
The report said the patient checked into Vanderbilt on Dec. 24, 2017, suffering from a subdural hematoma — or bleeding of the brain — and vision loss. The patient was sent to the hospital’s radiology department for a full body scan, which involved laying in a large, tubular machine.
The patient expressed concern about laying in the machine because of claustrophobia, the report states, so a doctor prescribed the patient a small dose of Versed, which is a standard anti-anxiety sedative.
The nurse retrieved the medicine from a dispensing cabinet, but withdrew vecuronium, a neuromuscular blocking medication that causes paralysis. The nurse then unknowingly gave the patient the vecuronium, telling the person it was “something to help him/her relax,” according to the investigation report.
The patient then became unresponsive during the scan, suffered cardiac arrest and partial brain death. The patient died three days later after being removed from a breathing machine.
In an interview with investigators, the nurse said the medicine switch occurred because the nurse was struggling to find the Versed in the dispensing cabinet. Unable to locate the medicine, the nurse triggered an “override setting” in the cabinet, which unlocked more powerful medicines.
The nurse then typed the first two letters of the medication’s name — “VE” — into a search field, then selected the “first medication on the list.”
That was vecuronium, not Versed.
According to the investigation report, Vanderbilt also failed the patient by not monitoring the person after the medicine was dispensed.
Nurses are supposed to monitor patients after giving them medication to ensure they don’t have a bad reaction. But in this case, the patient was moved into the scanning machine, so it was not immediately noticed when the person lost consciousness. Medical staff estimated that the patient might have been alone in the scanning machine for 30 minutes before anyone noticed something was wrong.
Every day, courts across our country appoint guardians to protect the personal and financial interests of those most vulnerable in our society. For individuals who are unable to manage their own affairs, whether it is due to illness, disability, or abuse, guardianship laws allow an organization or an individual to manage their affairs and protect them from harm.
Recently, various guardian abuses have been reported and investigated in several jurisdictions in addition to a probe by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The allegations include mismanagement of funds, lack of proper notice in court proceedings, and even conversion of assets. Guardians may be family members, independent attorneys, or non-profit organizations. Guardians are charged with marshalling a ward’s assets and income, and depending on the state, they have varying reporting obligations as to financial and personal transactions.
On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging reported its findings after a one-year investigation that included testimony by experts and advocates across the nation. Senator Bob Casey and Senator Susan Collins reported that in several jurisdictions guardians have little oversight and financial abuse exists. According to the Special Committee’s Report, approximately 1.3 million individuals are under guardianship in the United States with $50 billion held in guardianship accounts.
The Senate Committee’s Report recommends mandatory background checks for guardians, increased supervision of guardians, and it also encouraged judges to consider less restrictive means instead of full guardianships. Tailored or limited guardianships, which are options already available in several jurisdictions, encourage individuals to retain some powers over their personal and financial affairs. Often this means that an individual will have a guardian for supported decision-making instead of full control being assigned to the guardian. Sometimes a person needs a guardian for financial management, but not for personal needs.
In 2015, news outlets revealed several Nevadan guardianship cases of theft and exploitation. In the Senate’s instant investigation, several Nevadan activists testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging making reports of notice failures and mismanagement of estates. Nevada has taken some steps in the right direction and it has recently embraced three significant reforms in guardianships, first encouraging the less restrictive alternatives to guardianship which includes encouraging those subjects of the proceedings to voice their views in court. Additionally, Nevadan advocates have moved to create a a Bill of Rights for protected persons in addition to a Guardianship Compliance Office wherein guardians are supervised and surveyed.
As part of their Report, Senators Casey and Collins have introduced The Guardianship Accountability Act that would mandate states to report guardianships in addition to mandatory background check for guardians. The Senate also recommended enhanced monitoring, improved collaboration, and increased uniformity of guardianship laws across the United States.
A significant concern in the Senate Committee’s Report is data collection because many states do not have adequate systems to monitor its fiduciaries. The Report noted several jurisdictions that have developed programs to correct this issue. Of note is the State of Minnesota, which has created an online tracking program for guardians where financial transactions are recorded. Similarly, Pennsylvania is in the process of developing a centralized tracking program. Four Indiana counties have developed a similar program. The Report recommends the increase in data collection by federal agencies in addition to a national resource center for guardians.
For those of us who serve as guardian, it can be an arduous task. The court entrusts a guardian with decision making abilities not only for financial concerns but for personal needs, where the stakes can be life or death. It is not unusual for a guardian to beckon the court for advice as to how to proceed with a ward’s significant health issue or how to better manage a ward’s finances so that better care can be provided. A guardian receives phone calls regarding everything from outstanding bills to flu shot consents to emergency room visits to requests for new clothing.
As noted in the Report, we need to do better for our elderly and disabled population. As professionals, we need to make certain that guardianships are properly granted and that guardians and their wards are supervised. As humans, however, we need to make certain that those close to use have appropriate mechanisms in place to avoid a measure so drastic as the issuance of a guardianship. A power of attorney or health care proxy can potentially deny a guardianship. Often financial abuse is not so apparent and vulnerable adults may be prey to systemic pressures asserted onto them by financial predators who can be relatives, friends, and even professionals. From the Senate Committee Report, it is apparent that we need to improve our legal mechanisms and it appears that thus far certain steps have been taken in the right direction. On a personal level, for the people in our own lives who are at risk — perhaps because they live alone or do not have immediate family — let us check in with them this holiday season as our presence is needed to spot issues, resolve problems, and keep them safe.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court initiated a Guardianship Tracking System statewide in 2018. Monroe County Court of Common Pleas went online with the system in late October. The GTS is designed for those individuals appointed as a guardian of the person and estate of an incapacitated person to file statutorily-mandated reports with the Clerk of Courts for review by the court.
A court can appoint a guardian after hearing where testimony and evidence establishes that an individual meets the statutory criteria for a finding of incapacity. The legal definition of an “incapacitated person” under 20 PA. C.S. §5502 is “an adult whose ability to receive and evaluate information effectively and communicate decisions in any way is impaired to such a significant extent that he is partially or totally unable to manage his financial resources or to meet essential requirements for his physical health and safety.”
A guardian of the estate makes financial decision and a guardian of the person makes health care and placement decisions. The same person may serve as guardian of both person and estate. It’s important to note that a guardian is appointed where an individual has not executed a power of attorney or who has, but the named agent is unable or unwilling to act for some reason.
Once a guardian of the estate is appointed by the court, that guardian must file an inventory within 90 days of the order appointing the guardian identifying all assets of the incapacitated person. With the GTS, the inventory can be filed online. On the anniversary of the order appointing the guardian of the estate, an annual report is filed listing all income and expenses of the incapacitated person over the prior year and stating whether there has been any change in the assets reported in the inventory, such as the sale of an asset, or an asset acquired after the filing of the inventory. Similarly, the guardian of the person must file an annual report summarizing the medical condition of the incapacitated person and indicating how many times the guardian has seen the incapacitated person over the prior year and the duration of the visits. These annual reports are required to be filed every year thereafter.
In the past, the form reports were filed in paper format with the Clerk of Courts. Now, those reports are filed online through the GTS. Although guardians can still file paper reports, the Clerk of Courts charges a fee of $50 per report. There is no charge for filing reports through the GTS.
The GTS ensures that county courts across the commonwealth can track the timely filing of the Inventory and reports. And county courts will review the reports for inconsistencies or oddities that might prompt the court to ask a guardian for clarification or further information.
Mary Lynn Pannen, founder and CEO of Sound Options, has consulted thousands of Washington families on geriatric care for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Sound Options.
As Seattle’s senior population rises, elder abuse is increasingly becoming an issue on city officials and caretakers’ radars. Advocates throughout the nation are calling on states to increase public awareness of elder abuse and for courts to respond to the epidemic.
Federal data obtained by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting showed that adult protective services throughout the country conducted over 713,000 elder-abuse investigations in fiscal year 2017, with nearly a third of the cases identifying victims of abuse or self-neglect. In Washington, reported elder-abuse cases increased from 19,000 in 2012 to 49,000 in 2017.
Although the soaring number of cases concerns Mary Lynn Pannen—founder and CEO of Washington-based Geriatric care management firm Sound Options—she said that the increased reporting is also a result of better data collection. Pannen has seen progress in the state’s response to elder abuse since she worked as the head of a Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department counsel that focused on the issue 35 years ago. “It is a silent crime, because you’ve got frail adults that are living at home for the most part,” said Pannen. “Some of them are unable to handle their own affairs, and they have people that come along their way and take advantage of them.”
Over the past 30 years, Pannen and her staffers at Sound Options have consulted families throughout the Puget Sound region on caring for older adults. Employees at offices in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia help caretakers create and execute care plans, work with elder law attorneys, and advocate on behalf of people in hospitals or community facilities. Staffers are trained to be keenly aware of elder-abuse cases, which usually manifest as financial exploitation.
One recent incident that her staffers observed involved the son of a client who gradually extracted money from his mother’s bank account. Other clients can be vulnerable to repeated instances of abuse. For instance, six months ago they were alerted to a case in which a caregiver exploited a client by inviting her boyfriend and animals to live in the house, Pannen shared. The client then hired another caregiver who convinced the client to sell her house and deed it to her. The caregiver then impoverished the homeowner by stealing $200,000 from her, Pannen said. She has also seen instances of neglect, such as when staffers discovered that a husband was withholding food and water from his wife.
Staffers are customarily contacted by elder law attorneys or neighbors who suspect the abuse. Staffers will then travel to the older adults’ homes to conduct assessments and ask the clients about their power of attorney and who has access to their bank account. They’ll look for red flags, such as bruises on the client or a refusal by family members or caretakers to allow the older adults to respond to the staffers’ inquiries. Once they’ve gathered enough information to suspect abuse, staffers will then report it to Adult Protective Services.
“One of the things to prevent abuse is to make sure that we can help de-stress the whole family unit, because caregiving is really hard,” Pannen said. “This is a serious issue and we need to have the public understand that.”
She’s found that abuse often goes unreported because older adults might feel shame or be unaware about the neglect or abuse they have faced at the hands of their own family members or caregivers. Her observation reflects national trends: the 2011 New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study estimated that 23.5 cases of abuse go unreported for every reported case.
In response to the epidemic, local agencies have bolstered protections for older adults in recent years. The Seattle Human Services Department’s Aging and Disability Services division (HSD/ADS) seeks to address the widespread issue by working with the Office of the King County Prosecuting Attorney and Adult Protective Services to provide older adults with financial, health, and legal services and safe housing in the face of abuse.
HSD/ADS’ Vulnerable Adult Program was created in 2011 to improve reporting of vulnerable adults by the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) and improve communication between departments that enforce laws and partners that provide senior services. The program consists of a partnership with SFD, Seattle Human Services/Aging and Disability Services, the Seattle Police Department, Adult Protective Services, and community organizations. “By working across departments, the program is one of the first of its kind, has [been] shown to work, and has been successful in getting care and services to vulnerable adults. We respond to an average of 35-45 reports per month by Seattle Fire Department,” HSD spokesperson Meg Olberding wrote.
According to Adult Protective Services’ (APS) data, King County’s efforts are helping increase elder-abuse reporting. APS reported a nearly 50 percent increase over the previous five years in reported allegations of elder abuse in 2014. In 2017, over 11,000 allegations were reported to APS in Region 2, which includes King County, with nearly 30 percent of the cases concerning financial exploitation. In the future, Pannen hopes that preventative services such as Sound Options and other geriatric-care management firms will be used by families to curb the epidemic.
Tim Conway, who underwent brain surgery in September, has been moved seven times in 12 weeks between rehabilitation centers and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to papers filed this week by the entertainer’s court-appointed attorney.
Conway is currently being cared for at Windsor Terrace Healthcare Center in Van Nuys, according to Michael Harris’ Tuesday court filing. Conway remains at the center of a dispute between his wife, Charlene, and her stepdaughter over whether he needs to be placed under a conservatorship. Kelly Conway maintains her father suffers from dementia. The actor-comedian turns 85 on Saturday.
Charlene Conway maintains that her husband does not need the protection of a conservatorship, but that if a judge is inclined to find to the contrary, she should serve the role and not her stepdaughter. Trial is scheduled for Friday before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Wada on whether a permanent conservatorhip should be established and, if so, who should be appointed.
On Sept. 14, Wada rejected Kelly Conway’s petition for a temporary conservatorship, finding that her concerns about her stepmother’s medical decisions regarding her father were moot at the time because he was hospitalized Sept. 3 and underwent brain surgery.
After brain surgery, Conway was released to the Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab facility in Santa Monica on Oct. 15, but has been back and forth since then to the hospital and Windsor Terrace, according to Harris’ court papers.
“Kelly Conway contends that Windsor Terrace made the mistakes that caused (her father) to require emergency removal to Cedars for surgery and that returning him to Windsor Terrace is wrong…,” Harris states in his court papers.and, if so, who should be appointed.
He said Kelly Conway wants her father returned to the Villas at Topanga Terrace care facility in West Hills, where she believed he was comfortable and getting good care. But Harris said he visited Windsor Terrace and came to a different conclusion about the facility than did Kelly Conway.
“The facility is apparently well-staffed and properly operated with clean and appropriate surroundings,” Harris wrote.
Conway was bed-ridden and unable or unwilling to talk, but his complexion was good and “his eyes were expressive,” Harris stated in his court papers. “In any event, this (court) proceeding involves at its core two women, both of whom are intent on doing what each believes is best for the interests of Mr. Conway.”
Harris recommends that regardless of the outcome of the legal battle, both women should be given regular visits with Conway and a say in his care and where he lives. He said he is hopeful the two sides can resolve their differences.
On Sept. 14, Wada rejected Kelly Conway’s petition for a temporary conservatorship, finding that her concerns about her stepmother’s medical decisions regarding her father were moot at the time because he was hospitalized Sept. 3 and underwent brain surgery.
After brain surgery, Conway was released to the Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab facility in Santa Monica on Oct. 15, but has been back and forth since then to the hospital and Windsor Terrace, according to Harris’ court papers.
“Kelly Conway contends that Windsor Terrace made the mistakes that caused (her father) to require emergency removal to Cedars for surgery and that returning him to Windsor Terrace is wrong…,” Harris states in his court papers.
Conway was a performer on “The Steve Allen Plymouth Hour” in the 1950s before landing the role of Ensign Parker on the 1960s comedy series “McHale’s Navy.” In the 1970s, he became a cast member on “The Carol Burnett Show.” He also starred as the title character in the “Dorf” comedy films and voiced the character of Barnacle Boy in the animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
In addition to Kelly, Conway and his first wife Mary Anne Dalton had five other children. They divorced in 1978.
An Augusta man accused of cheating a disabled neighbor out of more than $100,000 was denied bond Thursday.
Charles Miles, 50, is charged with exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult and unauthorized practice of law. At the conclusion of a bond hearing in Richmond County Superior Court, Senior Judge J. David Roper denied bond, finding Miles posed a danger to the community, is a flight risk and a potential threat to the victim in the case, a 67-year-old man disabled by a heart condition.
Miles was arrested Nov. 30 after exploiting money from his disabled neighbor for nearly a year, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Pennington told the judge Thursday. Miles promised to repay the disabled man when he inherited $350,000 and property. Miles first asked for $75,000, and then he kept going back for more money, often claiming need for medical treatment, Pennington said.
The disabled man was running out of money to pay his own expenses and started selling off his belongings. To keep the ruse of inheriting property going, Miles set up the neighbor with “an attorney” who texted the disabled man about Miles’ property deals, Pennington said. The texts became hostile and bullying, and when the victim told his daughter about the deal, she believed it was a scam, Pennington said.
The daughter made an appointment to meet with the attorney, a meeting Miles tried to ambush, Pennington said. The attorney was adamant she nether knew or worked for Miles.
When the Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly task force executed a search warrant at Miles’ home, they found the phone used to send texts to the disabled neighbor, Pennington said. They also found forged receipts claiming to be from the probate court, she said.
Defense attorney Jared Williams countered that the evidence will prove that Miles and the disabled neighbor were very close, more like father and son than neighbors. The neighbor was helping Miles out of financial trouble, Williams said. While there will be a dispute over the total amount borrowed, Miles wanted to get bond so he can get a job and start paying the neighbor back, Williams said.
Miles’ criminal history includes charges for a 2004 aggravated assault, a 2001 cruelty to children and a 1991 escape.
GLASGOW – A man who was re-elected, unopposed, last month as the constable for Barren County's District 7 was scheduled to appear in court Friday for a pretrial conference in a case in which he is the defendant.
After more than two hours from the start time for the morning docket, the case was called in which George “Buddy” Houchens Jr., 70, was charged with violation of a Kentucky emergency protective order/domestic violence order, a misdemeanor, in Barren District Court, and neither he nor anyone else approached the bench on his behalf.
District Judge Gabe Pendleton told Assistant County Attorney Mike Richardson that an emergency guardianship hearing had been scheduled for Houchens a couple of weeks from that day, and the person who had procured the emergency protective order Houchens is accused of violating was the one petitioning for the guardianship.
Pendleton suggested they continue the pretrial conference to January and see what happens with the guardianship case in the interim.
An emergency protective order had been issued against George “Buddy” Houchens Jr. on July 21 after he allegedly had been verbally abusive that morning and then went to a third party's home, where the adult female who later became the petitioner for the EPO had gone, and threatened to shoot that woman and possibly another individual apparently not present at the time, according to the petition for an order of protection.
Just after midnight the following morning, Houchens was served with the EPO by Barren County Sheriff's Office Deputy Adam Bow, who verbally read and explained it to Houchens, according to the misdemeanor citation. Bow wrote that he followed Houchens to a friend's residence where he was going to spend the night, but shortly after the deputy left there, so did Houchens. Bow went to where he believed Houchens might have gone.
“Upon arrival in the area, I discovered that [Houchens] was [there], which was a protected location,” Bow wrote on the citation. “I then got out and spoke with … the protected party in the EPO. She stated that [Houchens] had already been to the door and tried to get in the residence.”
The narrative of the events on the EPO petition indicates that a health issue may have contributed to Houchens' alleged behavior.
Houchens was released from the Barren County Detention Center on a $500 bond later the same day of his arrest. The EPO/DVO case was later dismissed by the petitioner.
The Glasgow Daily Times does not identify alleged or confirmed victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
Nicky’s Law, originally filed by state Senator Mike Moore of Millbury and state Representative Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen, passed the Senate 36-0 last summer but got stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee when the Legislature ended its formal sessions.
A society is — or should be — judged by how well it protects its most vulnerable citizens. But when it comes to protections for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Massachusetts still has a long way to go.
And by every statistic available, the problem of physical and sexual abuse is growing worse with every passing year.
“It is an epidemic of abuse against people with disabilities,” Nancy Alterio, executive director of Massachusetts’ Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC), told a legislative oversight committee recently.
One way to make a dent in the problem is rather straightforward: a registry of caretakers against whom claims of abuse have been substantiated. The idea has gone by many names — often named for those victimized. The current version is called “Nicky’s Law,” after Nicky Chan, whose parents, Nick and Cheryl Chan, were made aware of a caretaker’s physical abuse of their son. The case against their son’s abuser actually went to court — few make it that far — but the caretaker was found not guilty and can, therefore, continue to work in group homes.
“I can tell you that the systems that are in place are not working,” testified Anna Eves, vice president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates. Her son, too, was the victim of abuse and neglect last year. Abuse claims were substantiated against seven people who worked with her son. Two of those workers were still on the job, she said.
The problem is that in many instances the victim is nonverbal, and absent visual evidence — and, sad to say in some cases, even with visual evidence — cases may be “substantiated” by the DPPC but not result in a successful criminal prosecution. (The standard for the latter is much higher.)
The victim remains the victim. But the abusing caregiver is free to move on to the next group home. The numbers alone are horrifying. Last year the DPPC received 11,895 reports of abuse on the 24/7 hotline it operates — half of them involving people with intellectual and development disabilities. Of those reports, 878 dealt with allegations of sexual abuse — 387 involving people with intellectual disabilities, 409 involving those with mental health disabilities.
DPPC has seen a 30 percent increase in abuse allegations in the past five years, Alterio testified.
Thursday, members of a number of advocacy groups, including the Arc of Massachusetts, plan a vigil at the State House to make one last push for the registry legislation this year. Nicky’s Law, originally filed by state Senator Mike Moore of Millbury and state Representative Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen , passed the Senate 36-0 last summer but got stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee when the Legislature ended its formal sessions.
The bill was actually much improved as it made its way through the Senate, which added due process safeguards for accused caregivers, including an appeals process, and put the registry under the umbrella of the DPPC.
Massachusetts has made significant improvements in how its agencies handle reports of abuse and the level of services it now provides to victims. But all of that is after the fact. The registry can help prevent abuse by ridding the system of those who have no business being left to care for our most vulnerable citizens. They ought not have to wait another year for the Legislature to act.
York Spratling (Image source: Facebook – Derwin Spratling)
A family is preparing a lawsuit and the state is investigating after a case of gross negligence led to the death of an Army vet at a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida.
York Spratling, 84, was admitted to Consulate Health Care in December 2016 and three months later he was dead after his genitals rotted away after not being washed by caregivers.
Family members told Naples Daily News, that they knew there were issues over Spratling’s care when they visited him over numerous occasions. These concerns were raised to the staff of the nursing home, but still, nothing was done. His nephew, Derwin Spratling, said that it was obvious that something was wrong with his uncle because in the last few weeks of his life he could barely walk. Even the nurses on staff knew something was wrong because according to state investigators, upon entering his room they could smell decaying flesh. But the nurses did not report his condition or the infection to doctors.
On the last visit, after seeing the elder Spratling suffering, a staff doctor informed his family that he would have to undergo emergency surgery because his penis had developed gangrene and the dead flesh needed to be cut away. Spratling died a short time after surgery and his death sparked an investigation by state officials.
In the past year, Consulate Health Care has been cited three times for not having enough nurses to properly care for residents, including bathing them. In the death review report from the Florida Department of Children and Families, it was stated that Spratling’s death was due to inadequate supervision and medical neglect. Despite these findings, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which is in charge of regulation of the state’s nursing homes, took no action against the facility.
Attorney Jon Loevy filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Cook County Public Guardian against Illinois DCFS
The Cook County Public Guardian has filed a class action complaint against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services over the agency’s treatment of children at state psychiatric facilities.
Charles Golbert, acting county guardian, filed the complaint Dec. 13 in federal court in Chicago on behalf of several plaintiffs identified by first name and last initial, as well as a similarly situated class, saying children who were medically cleared for discharge from a psychiatric hospital were instead forced to stay in locked psych wards, “causing immense harm.” The complaint referred to the practice as “holding children beyond medical necessity.”
According to the complaint, this practice constitutes a violation of 14th Amendment due process rights and failure to provide medical care obligations, while also running afoul of the federal Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, since program participants are qualified as individuals with mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities who were denied the benefits of being placed in less restrictive housing.
“The effects of holding children (beyond medical necessity) BMN are heartbreaking at an individual level and staggering when multiplied among all the children who have been subjected to the practice,” Golbert said in the complaint. “Simply put, holding a child BMN is inhumane. Being unnecessarily locked in a psychiatric hospital undermines — even eliminates — the precious stability that children formed during their admission. Children in psychiatric hospitals receive no formal schooling. They are locked indoors every day. Their ability to visit with siblings and family members is drastically curtailed. And psychiatric facilities can be dangerous, particularly for vulnerable children, when other patients express psychiatric and behavior disorders.”
Golbert said the state’s knowledge of the practice goes back as far as 1988 as a result of another federal complaint, BH v. Johnson, and noted in 2015 the General Assembly directed DCFS to track all children being held beyond medical necessity. He accused DCFS of reaping “false public relations benefit on the backs of the children it is charged to protect” by saying it’s saving taxpayer dollars through cuts to residential and group home care, which contributes to keeping children hospitalized longer than needed.
In addition to DCFS, named defendants include seven former DCFS directors and acting directors, as well as supervisors of the agency’s central matching unit, which is supposed to ensure “therapeutically appropriate placement upon discharge from a psychiatric hospital.” Also named are past heads of DCFS’ Psychiatric Hospitalization Project, clinical practice deputy directors, guardianship administrators and DCFS workers who attended weekly monitoring meetings for children detained allegedly beyond medical necessity.
According to the complaint, which cited an Illinois Auditor General performance audit, the number of children held past need more than doubled — from 75 in 2014 to 168 in 2015 — and more than 800 children were so held from 2015 through 2017. Figures show nearly 30 percent of all youths “in DCFS care who were hospitalized were held beyond medical necessity, for a collective total of more than 27,000 days.”
The class would include all children who, since March 4, 2008, were “subject to abuse, neglect or dependency petitions filed in” Cook County Circuit Court, placed in DCFS guardianship or held in a psychiatric hospital for a week or longer beyond being cleared for discharge, provided they are 20 years or younger as of Dec. 13. There would be seven class subgroups divided by the tenure of DCFS directors.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.
Golbert and the plaintiffs class are represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Loevy & Loevy, in Chicago, including Arthur Loevy, Jon Loevy and Russell Ainsworth.
Danny Miner, a 66-year-old retired chemical plant supervisor, spends most days alone in his Tooele, Utah, apartment, with “Gunsmoke” reruns to keep him company and a phone that rarely rings.
Old age wasn’t supposed to feel this lonely. Mr. Miner married five times, each bride bringing the promise of lifelong companionship. Three unions ended in divorce. Two wives died. Now his legs ache and his balance is faulty, and he’s stopped going to church or meeting friends at the Marine Corps League, a group for former Marines. “I get a little depressed from time to time,” he says.
Baby boomers are aging alone more than any generation in U.S. history, and the resulting loneliness is a looming public health threat. About one in 11 Americans age 50 and older lacks a spouse, partner or living child, census figures and other research show. That amounts to about eight million people in the U.S. without close kin, the main source of companionship in old age, and their share of the population is projected to grow.
'Being alone isn't that bad of a deal, but it can be boring,' said Danny Miner, adding, after a pause, 'lonely.' Photos: Briana Scroggins for The Wall Street Journal(3)
Policy makers are concerned this will strain the federal budget and undermine baby boomers’ health. Researchers have found that loneliness takes a physical toll, and is as closely linked to early mortality as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks a day. Loneliness is even worse for longevity than being obese or physically inactive.
The lack of social contacts among older adults costs Medicare $6.7 billion a year, mostly from spending on nursing facilities and hospitalization for those who have less of a network to help out, according to a study last year by Harvard University, Stanford University and AARP.
“The effect of isolation is extraordinarily powerful,” says Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “If we want to achieve health for our population, especially vulnerable people, we have to address loneliness.”
The Trump administration is looking at expanding faith-based partnerships to combat isolation among seniors, says U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging Lance Robertson. Earlier this year, the British government appointed its first minister of loneliness to tackle the issue.
The baby boomers prized individuality and generally had fewer children and ended marriages in greater numbers than previous generations. More than one in four boomers is divorced or never married, census figures show. About one in six lives alone.
The University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, which has tracked American attitudes since 1972, asked respondents four years ago how often they lacked companionship, felt left out and felt isolated from others. Baby boomers said they experienced these feelings with greater frequency than any other generation, including the older “silent generation.” (Click to Continue)
The recent passing of Dorothy Luck, will be sad news for the many people she worked to help free from this human trafficking of the elderly. Having freed herself from one of these so called guardianships, Dorothy spent the remainder of her time on earth helping to try and reform this insidious system. She was described by those close to her as “a true advocate and wonderful friend”.
Dorothy traveled many times to the Texas State Capital and worked with many advocates for guardianship reforms. She never feared those who forced her into this injustice and she accomplished freeing herself from those who used her for her wealth. Her guardianship was closed and her rights were restored. She accomplished this by exposing what Guardianship was truly about, money, as it was much better protected than she was, yet many court appointees profited from her wealth. She tells it like it is in the story below.
Imagine losing control of the most basic decisions in your life: the right to speak for yourself, how to spend your money or even what medicines you should be taking. Dorothy Luck was in a dispute with family over trust money. After a court-ordered medical exam, she was declared incompetent to make big financial decisions and ended up a ward of the state. In this excerpt from America Tonight, Sheila MacVicar investigates shocking cases of elderly Americans at the mercy of court-appointed guardians.
Thank you Dorothy for all your dedication and efforts on behalf of others. You will be dearly missed!
Corporate Guardians of Northeast Wisconsin, Inc., is a locally owned and operated agency that provides services related to guardianship throughout the state of Wisconsin. The agency began providing services in Manitowoc County in 2006 as a result of a request by the Manitowoc County Aging and Disability Resource Center.
Since that time, the agency has grown to serve all counties throughout Wisconsin. In addition to guardianship, it also assists those who require support with services closely related to the agency's area of expertise, including: case management, guardianship consulting, power of attorney, trustee, special administrations and personal representative for estates.
Presently, the agency works out of three offices: a corporate office in Two Rivers and two satellite offices in Beaver Dam and Richland Center. It has plans for expansion and expects to open several more satellite offices in the next several years.
The agency has a team of 16 highly trained professionals who exemplify positive, solution-driven leadership. The team feels passionately about providing the highest quality of service. The agency says it believes "in promoting independence, encouraging financial responsibility, reflecting professional attitudes and working towards positive, solution-driven outcomes."
The owners of CGNEW are a husband-and-wife team, Kay and Brian Schroeder. Kay and Brian believe in providing exceptional service and filling the gap for those whose family may be unable or unwilling to serve in these vitally important roles. They are committed to ensuring this excellence through continually striving to do better and be better. The CGNEW team is provided "out-of-the-box" training opportunities in an effort to help them to be their best selves.
Agency team members take part in various community outreach programs, including Kiwanis, The Chamber of Manitowoc County, Local I-Teams, WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders), The Mental Health Coalition Board, Manitowoc Co-Op, Memory Cafés, The Alzheimer's Association, Wisconsin Guardianship Association and National Guardianship Association. Additionally, its members have been honored to take an active role in several committees throughout the state whose goals are to better the guardianship system in Wisconsin.
In serving vulnerable individuals, it is Corporate Guardians of Northeast Wisconsin's passion and mission to ensure all individuals in need of guardianship services, trustees, estate representatives and power of attorneys have access to the highest quality services from its agency and beyond.
"We continue to strive for excellence in our field and collaborate with various guardianship stakeholders to pursue positive change throughout our state," the agency said.
For more information, visit www.cgnew.org.
The Chamber of Manitowoc County, with its publishing of The Chamber Notebook, provides space for Chamber members to present information about their business. The publishing of this information is in no way intended as showing preference for that business by The Chamber.
From Ashton Kutcher to Bill Gates, there's a growing list of notable figures who say they will not be leaving an inheritance for their children. For the average American, there might not be much to leave behind when faced with the choice between supporting adult children or saving for retirement.
Parents are choosing to cover the costs of groceries, rent and cellphone bills for their adult kids.
A recent study from Merrill Lynch found that 79 percent of parents continue to serve as the "family bank" for their grown-up children, paying for big-ticket items like college and weddings, but also for smaller, everyday expenses. Parents of adult children contribute $500 billion annually -- twice the amount that they invest in their own retirement accounts.
Sixty-three percent of parentssaid in the study they have sacrificed their financial security for the sake of their children.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34.1 percent of people aged 18 to 34 lived under their parents' roof in 2015. That's up from 26 percent in 2005. One in four young people living in their parents' home neither go to school nor work.
Denver tax and estate planning attorney Denise Hoffman White worries that propping up adult kids today hurts them tomorrow.
"You start to see adult children who are not being put in a position where they can be successful in their own right because they have a crutch which is different than an opportunity," said Hoffman White, who tries to train clients who are parents to talk to their kids about money the same way they teach manners or good grades.
Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch,noted another possible outcome of supporting adult children.
"If you get to a point where truly your retirement savings or savings just in general is completely depleted to support your kids, ultimately your kids may actually have to provide financial support for you later on in life as well," she said.
Gary and Sandy Cooper's children may be grown up far beyond their years.
"You want to give … but sometimes giving them isn't actually helping them," said Gary Cooper, a private wealth adviser at UBS Financial Services. "Our job is to help them, not do for them, right?"
The Coopers try to teach life-long lessons in budgeting and money discipline with things as simple as a box of Oreos.
"You're welcome to eat them all tonight or you can allot them out and learn to make them last until the next time we go buy the next box of Oreos," said Sandy Cooper. "It's a concept of saving, of budgeting, of understanding -- that feeling of delayed gratification." The Cooper kids have learned some lessons.
When 16-year-old Kyle wanted to buy the family car, he paid for it by maintaining a $1,000-a-year high school academic scholarship.
"I think the lesson was regardless of the money, if you work hard for something then you will be rewarded, whether it be by some physical thing or some emotional-- you'll be rewarded for hard work."
Kyle does part-time jobs like tutoring and shoveling snow to pay for extras like gas.
Nolan, 14, already knows his parents will only fund four years of college. After that, he's on his own.
"So, if my parents start us while we're young with the expectation that we have to work to get what we really want, that later in life we'll be able to prosper in that sort of environment," he said.
At age 11, Sofie is so financially farsighted she is already saving money for the apartment she will rent after college.
"Everybody is going to reach a challenge in their life where they can't ask for help, and they need to be able to do it by themselves, and by our parents making us grow up this way, it's going to help us be able to overcome that more than somebody who just gets stuff," said Sofie.
Sandy Cooper hopes these lessons will fortify her children for the future.
"So I think they'll have the intrinsic pride and motivation to deal with anything that gets thrown their way," she said.
Raising financially independent kids these days may be about teaching an old-fashioned lesson: earn before you spend.
No one wants to reach a place in life where a guardian is appointed to make decisions on her or his behalf. Guardianship situations arise when the law determines that people are unable to care or make decisions for themselves.
Under guardianship, they can no longer make decisions about their care or their finances. Disability Rights Oregon has worked with the legislature to add some safeguards to Oregon's guardianship law, but DRO still feels some further refinements are needed, and will ask for them when the legislature convenes next month.
(CMC)–A Grenadian American lawyer in Brooklyn has been indicted on a grand larceny charge for allegedly withholding proceeds from the US$1.7 million sale of a building in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn owned by a retired couple.
“This defendant was trusted with funds that he was obligated to give to his clients,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Friday.
“Instead, he allegedly betrayed that trust and kept $650,000 of his retired clients’ money. We will now seek to hold him accountable for this alleged theft.”
The District Attorney identified the lawyer as Gerald Douglas, 50.
Douglas was also arraigned on Thursday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun with second-degree grand larceny.
He was ordered held on bail of $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash and to return to court on February 6.
Douglas faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Gonzalez said according to the investigation, between August 2016 and March 2017, Douglas represented a couple in the sale of their nine-unit building at 11A Spencer Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Gonzalez alleged that Douglas represented the victims, a married couple, 70 and 71 years old, at the closing of the sale of their property on September 12, 2016, “at which time he received checks totaling nearly US$1.5 million, which, less the down payment, represented the balance owed.”
“It is alleged that the defendant kept the funds, depositing them into his escrow account,” the district attorney said. “He was also in possession of a down payment of US$170,000 that he received in August 2016.”
At the end of October 2016, Gonzalez said Douglas sent the victims a check for US$200,000 and a week later wired them US$600,000.
In March 2017, Gonzalez said Douglas gave the couple another check for US$100,000.
“Despite repeated and urgent requests from the victims, the defendant failed to turn over the balance of the funds, less his legal fee and a broker’s fee, which was approximately US$650,000,” Gonzalez said.
Media mogul Sumner Redstone is set to be the latest client of Samuel Ingham, who previously served as a court-appointed conservator for pop star Britney Spears.
Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, was ruled incapacitated by a Los Angeles Judge on Monday. Ingham was appointed as an independent legal guardian.
The ruling came as part of ongoing litigation about Redstone’s trust. Manuela Herzer, a former companion of Redstone’s, filed a lawsuit to be reinstated in his will after she was written out in 2016. That lawsuit has been withdrawn, but earlier this year Redstone filed to preserve the 2016 change.
Herzer’s lawyers have argued that Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, is directing the litigation, and lawyers for Sumner Redstone and his grandson, Tyler Korff, asked for a review of his competence to prevent appeals on those grounds at a later date.
The judge ruled that Sumner Redstone was incapacitated on the grounds of a severe speech impairment, but specified that the ruling had no bearing on his mental competence.
A lawyer for Sumner Redstone said the ruling would not affect his role at National Amusements Inc, which owns a controlling share in CBS and Viacom. CBS sued National Amusements earlier this year in an attempt to wrest back control from the Redstones, and prevent a merger with Viacom, which is favored by Shari Redstone.
But the ouster of CBS CEO Les Moonves earlier this year following sexual harassment allegations may have opened a path to push through the merger. Moonves was one of the merger’s biggest opponents at the network.