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Abuse Allegations Pour From Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation

34Rn2mwL0OLTzHo35iMDoxOm1qO4kO9D.jpg “You have more freedom in prison and at least there you know when you are getting out,” says one disability advocate in regards to Florida’s Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR), one of the largest rehabilitation centers for brain injured patients in the country. Over the past decade, hundreds of reports have unveiled abuse at the facility, yet it remains open with its beds full. FINR is a private facility that houses patients suffering from all types of brain injuries, including memory loss, physical handicaps, inability to control violent anger and sexual aggression. However, because FINR is a for-profit facility, it is selective of the residents it accepts and typically only accepts those who can pay for their own care, via settlements or state aid, because such care can reach $1,850 per day. Peter Price, a resident who swallowed five fish hooks and 22 AA batteries as an escape mechanism, and his family have instrumental in exposing that horrid conditions and abuse that many residents suffer at FINR. Over twenty former and current patients have spoken out about the abuse at FINR and many have filed for criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Many contend that Florida law enforcement and medical examiners have been instrumental in masking that history of violence and death that exists at FINR.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families has received almost 500 abuse allegations since 2005 and law enforcement has “verified” almost forty of those complaints. Currently, three FINR employees are facing criminal charges for abusing residents. Two staffers have been charged for abusing an autistic patient after a video surfaced of them punching, elbowing and slapping the patient because he was making noise as they were trying to watch television. Another video surfaced depicting a staff member as he pulls another autistic patient from his seat, kicks the patient’s legs out from underneath him and throws him to the ground. In 2005, a former Marine died from “positional asphyxia” after FINR employees pinned him face down until he was no longer breathing. His family received $5 million in their negligence suit against FINR. Two other families settled confidential lawsuits with FINR for the death of their loved ones in 2005.

Last year, a patient who was to be fed via a feeding tube died from choking on food a staff member served him that he was unable to eat. Other residents stated that they were often “taken down” and beaten by staff members. Another patient claimed a staff member kicked her in the face with a boot. While admitting that she sometimes needed to be restrained, she claims that the force and frequency FINR staff members used was unnecessary. Additionally, the patient received none of her ordered psychological therapy, despite paying $310,000 annually to FINR. Also, the medical examiner concluded the cause of death for a patient who died less than six months after being admitted to the facility as “Sudden Ventricular Arrhythmia due to Schizophrenia.” The patient had never been declared schizophrenic and the medical examiner was unable to remember why she concluded the patient was schizophrenic. The patient was to be monitored 24 hours a day, but died while her night monitor was asleep.

Over the past four years, twenty one patients have been pulled from the facility because a D.C. investigation revealed that FINR violated its patient’s human rights by restricting their communications with people outside of the facility, reading emails and using drugs as a form of punishment. FINR often prohibits the out of state patients from travelling home to attend hearings. Additionally, FINR accepts mentally ill patients even though its license is for brain-injured patients.

Abuse of Brain Injured Americans Scandalizes U.S., www.bloomberg.com July 24, 2012.


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