#AdvocacyMatters: Diligent Observation, Fierce Protection

July 16, 2021 / #AdvocacyMatters

While the global COVID-19 pandemic complicated seemingly all aspects of our daily lives, the lasting impacts magnified the need for many of the essential functions performed by our organization. As Ohio’s federally authorized Protection & Advocacy agency, the responsibility we hold to perform investigation and monitoring activities isn’t something we take lightly.

In our recently-released 2020 Annual Report, we outlined many of the milestones achieved by our Abuse and Neglect team last year. While this work presents incredible challenges on its own, the pandemic forced a complete rethink of how it was done. By creating new systems that utilized remote monitoring practices, the essential Investigations and Monitoring functions continued uninterrupted while protecting the health and safety of everybody involved.

Last summer we completed and reported on a 9-month investigation into the Sequel Pomegranate youth residential treatment facility in Columbus. Our investigation found inappropriate and dangerous restraint techniques, lack of appropriate nutrition, a harmful overall culture within the facility, and many other violations of residents’ rights. Ultimately, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services intervened and forced Sequel to relinquish its license for the residential facility.

We also completed a 20-month investigation of the Cuyahoga County Correctional Center in downtown Cleveland. This facility holds as many as 26,000 people annually and has been the subject of complaints from inmates, elected officials, and outside agencies. Over the course of our investigation we determined that the facility lacked adequate healthcare and that the inmates – as many as 40% of which have some type of disability – don’t have access to any meaningful mental health care. We also uncovered chronic staffing issues that contributed to a culture of misconduct and abuse of inmates, and found the facility to have areas that were inaccessible to people with disabilities. This report was published and used to educate policy makers on the changes needed within the jail.

Throughout the year our Representative Payee and Abuse and Neglect teams worked closely together to ensure that Social Security beneficiaries weren’t victimized amid changing benefit payments, stimulus payments, and other dynamic factors, and our Victims of Crime Act program ensured that victims of crime with disabilities were afforded the same opportunities to tell their story as people without disabilities—often through rights education, accessibility advocacy, and client empowerment. The resiliency shown by these teams amid the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic is a testament to their focus and resolve. Because the belief that #AdvocacyMatters is at the core of who we are, our diligent observation and fierce protection will never waver.

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