Sexual abuse, neglect triggers increased scrutiny of service providers for Ohio's disabled

Legislator, national group calls for new state law

CLEVELAND - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation detailing sexual abuse and neglect among people with disabilities across Ohio is prompting calls for reform.

An Ohio legislator is calling for a new state law and one of the nation's largest groups representing the disabled is urging that key inspection reports of service providers be publicly available online.

Our exclusive investigation found people with disabilities in Ohio were victims of more than 2,000 cases of misappropriation, physical and sexual assault and neglect in 2012.

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

In addition, of 1,587 compliance reviews of service providers performed by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, 600 failed to follow state regulations.

According to the agency, only 28 service providers had their certification revoked last year.

In Cuyahoga County, a review of 1,100 pages of compliance reviews involving 165 service providers since 2009 found 874 serious compliance violations.

Compliance violations included failure to check criminal backgrounds, failure to check abuser registries and lack of both CPR and first aid training.

Currently, inspection and compliance records are maintained by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disability but are not routinely published or distributed, nor are they available on-line.

News Channel 5 obtained several of these records during our investigation and posted them online for public inspection. You can view those here.

Families of those with disabilities told NewsChannel5 they are left in the dark when it comes to learning about service providers that are caring for loved ones.

As a result of our investigation, Ohio State Senator Mike Skindell is proposing new legislation that would require the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to post inspection and compliance reports online.

Skindell said without a requirement to post reports, key information about service providers is largely kept secret, protecting service providers and allowing them to operate in secrecy.

"With this new law, a family can actually go online and see a survey or an investigation report result," said Skindell.

Daniel Wright is earning a Master's Degree in Social Work and uses a motorized wheelchair to get to classes.

"I believe in empowerment," said Wright, "so empowering people to make their own decisions and  do what's best for them and their families."

Wright is urging the legislature to pass the proposed legislation.

"Allow people to read reviews and see who you can trust and who your loved ones can trust - and see who you can't trust," said Wright.

And in Washington, the National Down Syndrome Society is also calling for greater transparency in response to our investigation.

Sara Hart Weir is the society's executive vice president and commended NewsChannel5's investigation.

"Having legislation that's passed through the legislature, signed by the governor and put into law so that it's actually mandated that this information be publicly available," said Weir.

Similar inspection reports can already be obtained online for child care centers and nursing homes.

If passed, Ohio would join Arizona - whose online database you can search here - and Idaho - whose online database you can search here - who have already made inspection and compliance reports of service providers for the disabled available online.

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