Advocates for the disabled often focus on the mistreatment uncovered in state-run institutions. But it is in private industry – particularly in the housing and care of mentally retarded people – that most complaints and investigations occur, where most injuries are logged, and where most deaths have been blamed on poor care – 14 of the 21 deaths of full-time residents. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation has found that Missouri’s system to catch abuse and neglect at private facilities for mentally retarded residents is in some key ways worse than the state’s often criticized practices in policing its own institutions.
Among the findings: Caseworkers are considered the eyes and ears of the Mental Health Department oversight system, yet some consistently fail to meet with clients at least once a month, as required. State auditors have repeatedly found times when private facilities did not report suspicious incidents, as required, and state overseers did not investigate reports that were submitted. The state takes twice as long to finish investigations in privately run facilities as it takes at its own institutions. The state has failed to revoke licenses of facilities where workers committed deadly lapses, and has failed to ensure workers who have mistreated residents don’t get jobs at other places and abuse again.