How We Help: Investigating Abuse and Neglect

February 26, 2019 by DRO Intern Cecilia Hardy / abuse and neglect

In addition to monitoring, which we covered in last week’s blog, Disability Rights Ohio has the authority to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. We conduct investigations to gather information and then work to the best of our ability to remedy any issues we find.

How are investigations initiated?

DRO initiates investigations after we receive complaints or after we find issues during monitoring visits. DRO’s Abuse and Neglect Team prioritizes complaints about:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Suspicious death
  • Physical abuse
  • Significant and systemic restraint and seclusion
  • Human trafficking
  • Financial exploitation

If a complaint falls into one of these categories and there is probable cause, DRO will assign a member of the Abuse and Neglect Team to investigate.

What does an investigation entail?

When conducting an investigation, DRO has more access to gather information about a complaint, including obtaining relevant records and interviewing residents and staff. If a resident has been abused, DRO will also attempt to get law enforcement involved.
During an investigation, DRO may also obtain certain records regarding the resident who has allegedly been abused or neglected. However, DRO does not have access to the records of every individual within the same setting, as the goal of the investigation is to determine facts related to the specific allegation and advocate for the individual with the disability.

Outcomes and remedies

At times, DRO finds no evidence to support the allegation, so no further action is taken. However, if we do find evidence, we work with the provider to try to resolve the issue, unless there is cause to take immediate action. The provider can make some remedies, such as removing employees, re-training staff, and providing counseling to victimized residents. If safety can be maintained, DRO tries to find solutions to the issues that are the least intrusive to our clients.

If a provider refuses to respond appropriately, or if the issue is found to be egregious or systemic, DRO may contact licensing and certification agencies, such as the Ohio Department of Health, the Department of Developmental Disabilities or the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. These agencies have the ability to sanction a provider if it does not take corrective action.

On rare occasions when the state’s licensing and certification agencies do not take action, DRO may release a public report about our findings and share it with the media. These reports do not contain any identifying information about people with disabilities.
Investigations are closed when the matter is resolved. Resolutions may include terminating the abusive staff and completing a report to local law enforcement or implementing new training and protocols in response to an allegation of neglect. DRO strives to work with providers. Typically, this is a shared goal and providers collaborate with us to resolve these matters to provide a healthy and safe environment.

Have you experienced or witnessed abuse?

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