A recent NY Times article exposed the death of a 13 yr. old autistic boy at the hands of staff. The article was 7 pages long and included information about other institutions including Sunmount DDSO. There have been numerous reports of client abuse. People that don't work or live in the community do not understand that there is plenty of employee abuse, as well.
Unlike other NYS facilities Sunmount's main campus was transformed into a Center for Intensive Treatment. This means that criminals who have been classified as "unfit to stand trial" are allowed to go through the program. If they behave long enough they are moved through a step program from CIT housing to one that provides more privileged and on to the least restrictive then out the door. They are considered "safe" to return to the community.
They crimes they have committed include pedophilia, arson, rape, attempted murder / murder, etc. Along with that is a host of aggressive, violent acts upon their victims. They are not someone any community wants out on the streets. But because of their attorneys, advocates and relatives they are housed here. They need only possess a slightly below normal IQ to qualify. If your choice was prison or fail an IQ test what would you do?
The staff must tolerate constant behavioral problems: outbursts, attacks on other clients, attacks, without provocation, on staff, attempted rape of other clients, etc. Yes, on occasion, you do have an employee who should not be there working; Either they cannot get past the horrendous acts these individuals have performed and look for any excuse to punish them. Or they have violent tendencies themselves and their Psych evaluation should have caught it. The ones that make everyone is the state of NY shudder. The employees who deserve to be fired, who laugh at management
and policy, and enjoy physically punishing consumers. They use a take down as an opportunity to get back at a client that has hurt other clients or staff in the past. Its a chance to let show them whose the boss.
Scott Whtiman, the employee who along with others was involved in a take-down of Ed Adkins, who is listed in the NY Times article, is now back at work. He turned on the other participants in a take-down who were just doing their job. Scott Whitman went on to brag about his action on Face Book. He thinks its funny to "beat up retards."
But the majority of the staff try hard to work in this high risk environment and watch each others' backs. They feel very much alone. Complaints do not go through the proper channels. They are buried instead.
Management turns a blind eye to everything. Some of these violent criminals have wealthy relatives who constantly interfere with their care. With a bevy of lawyers they go after everyone involved in their child or relatives care the minute the "client" complains. And yet they will not take this person home with them. They cannot handle them and are in many cases, terrified of what they are capable of doing. But they will do everything in their power to prevent justice from being served. No prison time for their "felon." Its an embarrassment to the mental health community. They want them to be catered to and treated better than all the other "consumers." They have lost sight of the fact that the crime their relative committed is horrendous. The victim suffered horribly at their hands and yet their family
member (s) want them coddled. They call any attempt to calm them down before they go into an uncontrollable rage "abuse" and refuse to allow them to be put in a "time out room" until they calm down. So they are free to attack everyone.
Its hard to discern the truth when so many people lie to protect themselves. Staff lie to protect each other. ICAD is useless. Its a committee, made up of other employees who take a simple test, and are in charge of all investigations. They have no education or experience in criminal justice, mental health, psychiatry, etc. They do no know how to interview employees who may have been involved in an abusive incident against a "client". The supervisors see what is going on and pretend they didn't. Often times because they are allowing staff to follow their rules and not the policies and procedures set up by Mental Health.
The woman over the CITS is a former, long-term biker chick who did her share of drugs, alcohol, and orgies when the Harley Run ( a big biker get together held every year in TL) came to town. She dated the leader of the Raquette River Riders, BEARD, for years. She is an LPN (to get your LPN license you only need one year of college) and pass your "Boards." She has no mental health training or any education in dealing with criminals. She took an exam, along with several other employees, for the position. She did not score the highest on the test. The one who did, who actually had several years of work experience working in this environment. The one who knew the problems and might have been able to actually fix things was passed over. She got the job instead. Just one of the many instances of someone being put in charge because of seniority, nepotism or a personal friendship. And not because he/she was the most qualified person for the job. This is part of the infrastructure problem at Sunmount. The Director surrounds himself with "friends" and not with qualified personnel who have the ability to LEAD and the skills to MANAGE.
She doesn't manage the Supervisors or Team Leaders under her care, rather she is too busy trying to keep her daughter and friends who deserve to be terminated from getting fired. Her daughter was taken to Harley Runs when she was just a little girl. Most of her life was spent around drunks and drug addicts. She is now one herself. She has been medication de-certified several times because the med count was short. Meaning she stole the client's medication and it appalling that she is still allowed anywhere near clients. She was not terminated when it was discovered that she did not have a driver's license due to several DUI / DWI's. It is a requirement to work at Sunmount. You must possess a valid driver's license. If a client needs to be driven to an appointment or hospital, for instance, the staff person on duty must be able to transport them. These reasons alone should be enough to terminate her. But it gets better Brandy Hogan has been allowed to remain an employee even though she has been on the PAK program twice. An employee is put on this program when they notorious for abusing work time. She continuously misses work.
Her file was sent down to Albany with many of the write ups against her missing from the file. Her mother will do anything to protect her. She is mentally unfit because of her drug and alcohol abuse. She has two children by two different fathers who are both trying to gain custody of their sons. Her home has been a pig sty and health hazard for years. She goes without feeding the children, dressing them in filthy clothes, etc.
The Director, Steve DeHond, is the biggest criminal of all. He has sat back and refused to provide proper management and support to the staff. Any complaints sent his way result in the staff, including supervisors and team leaders, who have dared to speak out. He is now scared of the NY Times article and other claims that are coming out. He has already been told by Albany that he either straightens the Sunmount abuse and other situations out or he is gone. He should be gone. He allows abuse and misuse of authority to go on by his management team constantly. He does not care about the clients or the overworked staff who must deal with them on a daily basis. If Governor Cuomo decides to close some of these institutions Sunmount may be one of them. This will hurt all 2500 employees who work at Sunmount and in the surrounding home based program.
Why aren't the CITs, RIT and LIT units run by personnel who have the Psychiatric education, experience and training to properly set up and maintain a less violent workplace for the "consumers" AND "staff". The community is small. There is a very limited workforce to draw employees from and some people have no desire to work there. That limits prospects even more. Staff are put out on 147's ( a client's complaint form) to accuse staff of everything from touching them inappropriately, to driving a truck into the building, up a flight of stairs, and running them over. Which of course has never happened. And my personal favorite accusing a staff person of doing something to them when the employee was off that day. They lie, its part of their "illness". The employee is put out on administrative leave, often with pay, while an investigation takes place. The investigation can take weeks or months. This is a lousy use of tax payer money AND many times the employee is brought back because the verdict is that the allegation is unfounded. In the meantime the other employees are punished by having to work mandatory overtime to cover for the shortage of employees. Another blatant misuse of taxpayer money. Some times they are ordered to work so much over time that they are exhausted and cannot function properly. There is a point when the eyes are open but the brain is definitely asleep.
If a top down house cleaning does not take place Sunmount, the Centers for Intensive Treatment, and the employees are doomed. The community of Tupper Lake can ill afford to lose one more business. And certainly not one that will deliver a devastating blow.