In February, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order aimed at protecting people with disabilities. The Governor is ordering three state agencies, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security to strengthen protection for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The aim is to protect people with disabilities from abuse and neglect by caregivers and other individuals.
Great First Step
The executive order came one week after the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council(ADDPC) issued a report calling for greater protection for those individuals with disabilities. These improvements include better training for staff, parents, and guardians. When he issued the executive order, the Governor indicated that he wanted stricter oversight, increased accountability, and to hold bad actors accountable for abuse and neglect.
Many feel that the executive order was issued in response to the sexual assault of a 29-year old resident of an Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled (ICF-ID). The victim gave birth in December. A nurse at the facility has been charged with rape.
More Likely to be Victims
In the executive order, the governor notes that individuals with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted. This is also true for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities that live in group homes and other facilities. Two mentally disabled clients at a community center in Virginia were discovered to be pregnant. In February, Bernard Betts-King, a behavioral specialist at the center, was charged with sexually assaulting both women. DNA tests showed that he was the father to at least one of the women’s children.
Individuals with intellectual and other disabilities are also vulnerable to other forms of abuse and neglect by caretakers in facilities. Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) require assistance with their daily tasks. This leads to close and frequent contact with caretakers. It can be difficult for individuals with IDD to recognize when they aren’t being treated properly and to report the situation.
With an increase in oversight and protections for individuals with disabilities, the Governor hopes to make Arizona a safer place for the vulnerable. Requiring increased training for caregivers on how to recognize abuse and neglect and posting instructions on how to report abuse and neglect can make it so that other employees can hold their co-workers responsible.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.