Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities often fails to act, leaving disabled at risk

Serious health, safety violations uncovered

CLEVELAND - EDITORS NOTE: Updated report clarifies factual statements regarding Daryl Scott Burton.

The Ohio agency that oversees those with developmental disabilities often fails to act despite serious health and safety violations by service providers.

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation into Ohio's Department of Developmental Disabilities found more than 2,000 people with disabilities were victims of abuse last year - ranging from physical and sexual assaults to neglect.

In addition - according to statistics provided by the agency - of 1,587 compliance reviews of service providers in 2012, 38 percent, or 603, were cited for failure to follow state health and safety regulations.

See our three-part series, a behind-the-scenes look and the evidence we collected during this investigation.

Of those, only 28 had their certifications revoked.

Many of those compliance violations included service providers who failed to check criminal backgrounds.

Caring Hands of Stark County was among the compliance reviews of agencies we found who failed to check criminal backgrounds.

The facility is not to be confused with Caring Hands, Inc. operated by Alliance Community Hospital.

LOOK: Caring Hands Inspection Documents

Daryl Scott Burton was hired by Caring Hands as a transportation aide.

But our investigation found Burton had 1993 theft conviction in Ohio as well as an extensive criminal history in Michigan including drugs, assault and fleeing police.

While employed by Caring Hands, Burton was also charged with raping a developmentally disabled woman who was being transported by bus to a day care center.

Mr. Burton was not driving the bus the day of the incident and the alleged assault took place in a fast food parking lot--not a deserted parking lot.

The rape charge was later reduced and Mr. Burton pleaded guilty to patient endangerment.

LOOK: Daryl Burton Abuse Finding

In addition, state records show Caring Hands of Stark County has "a serious pattern of non-compliance" for two full years - including failure to check criminal backgrounds.

Yet it took a sexual assault to finally shut it down.

Todd Brown was Caring Hands' president and admits that he never checked Burton's criminal background, insisting he believed it was checked by another member of his staff.

"I didn't ever check it," admitted Burton. "I hire people to do that and they didn't double-check like there were supposed to - he was a bus driver.

"I didn't know anything about who we hired at the time."

The victim's mother was left stunned.

"I don't understand how the state can let this slide by under their fingers and let these companies continue to provide services for the disabled and get by with it," she said.

In Cuyahoga County, we reviewed 165 inspection reports since 2009 and found 874 serious compliance violations.

Among them:

  • Lack of first aid and CPR training
  • Failure to check abuser registries
  • No criminal background checks

Even so, our investigation found service providers are rarely put out of business.

"It's really hard to close a place down," said Michael Kirkman, Executive Director of Disability Rights Ohio, the state's leading advocacy group for the disabled.

And referring to providers' compliance with state regulations, Kirkman said our investigation raises serious questions.

"I think what you're uncovering is that it's actually not working."

Our investigation found 2,000 cases of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and misappropriation in 2012 across Ohio.

Among the findings were 76 cases involving sexual abuse, 373 involving physical abuse and 1,072 cases of neglect. All were found to be substantiated by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Since 2002, 470 individuals have been placed on a state abuser registry and our exclusive investigation has created a searchable database to more easily identify offenders.

Coming up Friday on Live on Five, our investigation continues into how service providers for the disabled can operate in near total secrecy.

In addition, we'll take you inside 1,100 pages of inspection reports and other documents that reveal how some have died while in the care of service providers who remain in business.

To put vital information into your hands, we've created an easily searchable database of service providers who have been placed on the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities abuser registry. Click here to search by name, offense, or by whether their cases involved criminal charges or arbitration.

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