Earlier this month, Disability Rights Florida filed a lawsuit against one of the largest brain injury centers in the country. The suit alleges that the center is interfering in the advocacy group’s efforts to probe into patient mistreatment complaints.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Tampa’s US District Court, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR) prevented an investigator from visiting FINR campuses and from interviewing witnesses. They specifically interfered with the investigator’s attempts to visit locations where abuses were claimed to have occurred.
Allegedly, one patient was improperly restrained. A second complaint alleges that two staffers were physically abusing a patient in their care. According to Sylvia Smith, spokesperson for Florida’s federally-designated disability rights advocacy group, the incidents both took place “within the past week or so,” as of October 2nd.
Jay Adams, attorney for the brain injury campus, said that the institute has always allowed the disability advocacy group “immediate and unlimited access to investigate” charges of abuse. Adams argues that the center fully cooperates with both Disability Rights Florida and with state regulators. Adams said, “…it is unfortunate that they have filed this unsubstantiated complaint rather than focusing their resources and efforts on the health and well being of Florida’s disabled. ”
According to Florida’s Department of Children and Families, 514 allegations of abuse or neglect at FINR have been filed since 2005. Thirty seven of these instances were “verified” by agency investigations, according to state records. As recently as August, the state went to court in order to force FINR to turn over their records of these instances, an order FINR eventually complied with.
Disability Rights Florida is similar to other agencies across the country. It is a government funded organization with a federal mandate to investigate allegations of abuse at centers for treating the disabled. This includes brain injury patients like those who are staying at FINR to receive treatment.