Saturday, January 22, 2022

CEO with Down syndrome runs successful cookie company that helps others with disabilities get jobs

By Caitlin O'Kane

In high school, she was bullied. After college, it was difficult to find a job. But through all the difficult times, Collette Divitto, has had one thing that makes her happy: baking. Divitto, who has Down syndrome, decided to channel her passion into a career, opening her own cookie company.

"So actually, I always loved baking, since I was 4 years old. From high school, I had been taking baking classes," said Divitto, 31. "It was a hard time for me. I had no friends, I didn't have a social life. I got bullied, I got picked on. And that's why I had been taking baking classes."

After high school, Divitto went to Clemson University in South Carolina, but after graduating, it was difficult for her to find jobs. So, she turned to her mom, who helped her create her own job: CEO of Collettey's Cookies. 

Collettey's Cookies, which is run out of Boston, was founded by Divitto in 2016 and has already brought in more than $1 million in revenue over the last five years. And if starting her own business in her 20s isn't impressive enough, Divitto is also an author of two children's books, is featured on the docuseries "Born for Business" about entrepreneurs with disabilities, and runs a nonprofit.

"There's lots of amazing things happening," Divitto said of the opportunities coming her way. She says her favorite part about running her business is hiring people with disabilities.

Divitto's mom, Rosemary Alfredo, helped her start her own business, which Divitto is CEO of.
Collettey's Leadership Org helps people with disabilities prepare for their careers, by offering workshops and mentoring. A percentage of proceeds from Collettey's Cookies, which ships nationwide and to Canada, goes towards the nonprofit.

In 2020, just 17.9% of people with a disability were employed. But Divitto believes many want to work, and even when they do, federal law does not require employers to pay them minimum wage. That means companies can pay people with disabilities whatever they think they're worth – something Divitto is working to change.

Collettey's Cookies

She has created a petition to help create more jobs for people with disabilities, which she hopes gets the attention of Congress. And not only does she advocate for people with disabilities through her nonprofit, she also hires them to work at her own company.

"My whole mission is creating jobs for people with disabilities," she said. "For people who do have disabilities...some want to have a job so badly."

Collettey's Cookies now has 15 employees, and about half of them are people with disabilities, Divitto said. And they have a strong leader to look up to. "No matter who you are, you can make a great difference in this world," Divitto said. "Don't let people bring you down ... Do not focus on your disabilities. You only need to focus on your abilities."

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Kansas attorney disbarred for ‘ghosting’ clients, the courts and investigators

by: Michael Dakota 

SALINA, Kan. (KSNT) — A Salina attorney has been disbarred for “ghosting” his clients, the courts, and investigators in cases that date back as far as 2017, according to court administrators. The Kansas Supreme Court disbarred James D. Sweet in an opinion filed Friday.

The Deputy Disciplinary Administrator Kathleen Lippert said the disbarment stems from two complaints filed by two clients representing four different civil cases.

Lippert appeared before the Kansas Supreme Court and outlined a list of complaints against Sweet, saying the investigation had lasted five months and Sweet had never met with an investigator.

Sweet had been hired to defend a bar owner identified only as E.G. and another client identified as J.M. in three civil suits. Both clients said Sweet failed to appear for court hearings, failed to prepare for hearings, and failed to inform clients of settlement offers.

Although Sweet was given an opportunity to appear by Zoom videoconference, he notified the court he would not be able to appear for a hearing.

Sweet faced either disbarment or indefinite suspension. The court chose to disbar Sweet.

The respondent’s actions and inactions wasted resources of the trial court and the investigators. More importantly, those things respondent did and failed to do caused great financial and emotional harm to his clients.”

The Kansas Supreme Court

The court ordered Sweet to cover the cost of the proceedings.

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Protecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse


Protecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse

In Florida, seniors are valuable members of our communities. Having chosen our beautiful state to live out their golden years, they expect peace, relaxation, and sunshine. But what is supposed to be a reward for a lifetime of hard work can quickly become a nightmare if they become victim to guardianship abuse.

Legitimate guardianships are established by state courts when it is determined that an individual is unable to attend to their financial and personal affairs. The appointed guardian is given vast control over the individual under their care, including power of attorney, control over their bank accounts, property, and assets, and the ability to make medical decisions. Unfortunately, these wide-ranging responsibilities leave room for bad actors to take advantage of those under their care — lining their pockets with the assets they were tasked with administering.

Like sharks hunting prey, unscrupulous guardians are on the hunt for vulnerable seniors to isolate, abuse, and defraud. What makes this problem especially difficult to solve is the lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability within state-administered guardianship systems. For example, we don’t even know how many Americans are under guardianship, deprived of their personhood or their ability to make critical decisions for themselves.

It is common practice for an individual who is appointed as a guardian for a senior or person with a disability by a state court to also be appointed as a representative payee by the Social Security Administration (SSA). That means the guardian receives and manages the Social Security benefits of the person they’ve been tasked to care for.

Unfortunately, state courts and SSA aren’t always talking to each other. If a court removes a guardian for abuse, fraud, or neglect, that guardian could still receive those Social Security checks in perpetuity. This is where the Senior Guardianship Social Security Protection Act comes in.

This legislation would direct state courts to notify Social Security if a guardian has been removed for cause, giving SSA the ability to remove the former guardian as representative payee. If there is one thing I have learned in my time in Congress, it’s that agencies work best when they are talking to one another. If you are not suitable to serve as an individual’s guardian, you aren’t suitable to collect their Social Security benefits either. That’s just common sense!

The bill also directs the SSA to report to Congress biannually on the number of Social Security payments being diverted to non-family representative payees, so that we can finally begin to determine how many Americans are actually under guardianship.

To further address guardianship fraud, I have also introduced two bipartisan bills with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) — the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation (FREE) Act to give those under guardianship an escape hatch from abusive private guardians, as well as the Guardians Aren’t Above Prosecution (GAAP) Act to clarify that fraud commissioned under a guardianship is still fraud punishable by law. Additionally, I co-introduced the bipartisan Guardianship Accountability Act along with Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) to implement further oversight and data collection of the guardianship system.

An unaccountable, opaque system that allows a fraudster to essentially imprison a human being with an ongoing stream of revenue — be it a Social Security check or in Britney Spears’ case, global record sales and tours — invites corruption of the worst order and demands reform. This suite of bills is an important start to protect seniors, persons with disabilities, and anyone else who finds themselves trapped by abusive guardians or conservators.

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Britney Spears case drives California bid to limit conservatorships

“Conservatorships should be rare, and the last resort,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United, a Southern California advocacy group.

Disability rights activists and advocates for Britney Spears backed a California proposal Wednesday to provide more protections for those under court-ordered conservatorships, while promoting less-restrictive alternatives.

Their move came as the volatile Spears case again boiled over in a Los Angeles County courtroom.

The hearing to settle lingering issues in the aftermath of Spears’ conservatorship, which was terminated in November, quickly descended into a series of angry accusations between attorneys for Spears and her father, and the case appears headed for a long trial to determine the truth of allegations of misconduct against him.

The case is Exhibit #1 for groups including Disability Voices United, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and Free Britney L.A. who say that what are known as probate conservatorships are overused and misused in California.

They most often involve people with developmental or intellectual disabilities or those with age-related issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

But the advocacy groups contend that conservatees like Spears can become trapped in a system that removes their civil rights and the ability to advocate for themselves.

The Professional Fiduciary Association of California, which represents many of those appointed as conservators, did not immediately comment, but said answers to many questions about the process can be found on a website.

“Conservatorships should be rare, and the last resort,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United, a Southern California advocacy group. “The default should be that people with disabilities retain their rights and get support when they need it.”

Britney Spears at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas Party
Britney Spears with her father Jamie Spears in Las Vegas. The pop star and her father have been locked in a court battle over her conservatorship.Denise Truscello / WireImage file

The groups backed legislation by Democratic Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that will also make it easier to end conservatorships for people who want out.

They are promoting instead what are known as “supported decision-making” agreements as a less restrictive alternative. They allow people with disabilities to choose someone to help them understand, make and communicate their choices, but allow the person to still make the decision.

That option has already been adopted in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., advocates said.

California law says conservatorships should only be ordered if a judge rules they are the least restrictive alternative. But the advocates contend they are often imposed without examining other options.

Maienschein’s bill would require that before granting a conservatorship, judges first document that all other alternatives including supported decision-making have been considered.

It would write supported decision-making into California law and back that alternative with grant programs, training and technical assistance.

The bill also would make it easier to end probate conservatorships by mandating a periodic review, including asking conservatees if they want to make the conservatorship less restrictive or end it entirely.

Conservators would also be required to consult with the conservatees and make decisions that reflect the conservatee’s wishes or previously expressed preferences.

Before his election to the Legislature, Maienschein was a law clerk for a San Diego Superior Court judge who oversaw conservatorships.

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Lafayette attorney disbarred for multiple alleged violations

The state Supreme Court has disbarred a Lafayette attorney accused of failing to properly handle a client's case, then lying to investigators about it.

Brad Thomas Andrus, who already was ineligible to practice law, was formally and finally disbarred, a ruling from the court released Wednesday states.

The case against Andrus centered on his handling of a case for a Branch man who made a claim with his insurance company after a broken water pipe damaged his home. The man hired Andrus to handle the matter.

During his handling of the man's claim, the court found that Andrus "engaged in serious attorney misconduct. He neglected his client’s legal matter, charged and collected an unreasonable fee, converted client funds held in his trust account, failed to return his client’s file upon request, and engaged in deceptive and dishonest behavior in the course of this disciplinary proceeding. This misconduct amounts to a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct as found by the disciplinary board."

The court decided that Andrus violated his duty to his client, and caused actual harm to the man. They found that Andrus' conduct was "knowing and intentional" and that the rules say he should be disbarred.

As aggravating factors, the court noted that he once ditched a process server by claiming he was his own twin brother, and asked for a delay in turning in his response to accusations, claiming his response was on a laptop that had been stolen from his vehicle. Church Point Police found "inconsistencies" in his story - including the fact that there was no report of a vehicle burglary on the date he claimed his laptop was stolen. 

"While we do not minimize the seriousness of his misconduct as it relates to his client... we suggest that respondent’s numerous instances of deceptive behavior are the most disturbing aspect of this matter. From the incredible tale of a vehicle burglary offered as justification for failing to timely respond to the disciplinary complaint, to his attempt to evade service of a subpoena by claiming to be his identical twin brother, and finally to submitting fabricated receipts and invoices to the ODC, respondent has violated the most fundamental duty of an officer of the court," the ruling states. "The utter absence of candor respondent has demonstrated in these proceedings calls his good moral character into serious question and warrants disbarment."

In addition to his disbarment and the requirement that he pay all costs of the investigation against him, the Court also ordered Andrus to participate in a fee dispute resolution program in order to make his former client whole.

According to their firm's website, Brad Andrus was practicing with his twin brother. Their firm office is located in River Ranch.

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Nurse’s aide accused of sexually assaulting 79-year-old patient at SW Houston facility

by Sabirah Rayford

– A certified nursing aide has been charged with injury to the elderly after Houston police said she sexually assaulted a patient at the Houston Transitional Care facility located in southwest Houston.

Police say in May of 2021, Natalia McDaniel forcefully held down a 79-year-old patient at the facility and sexually assaulted her.

Prior to this charge, McDaniel was convicted of delivering cocaine back in 1997.

“That employee should’ve been vetted a little more and also watched a little better,” Executive Director of Nixon Homecare Shay Tatum said.

Tatum said she isn’t affiliated with this case, but explained why criminal histories may not be flagged. She said it’s not uncommon for people with records to hold a CNA license because there’s a statute of limitations.

“As long as you have not committed any animal abuse, elderly abuse, and aggravated assault, or any assaults in nature, some things have a statute of limitations,” she explained. “This individual we’re talking about today had a cocaine charge from 20 years ago. Well, the state only requires a five-year clean record.”

She said there are ways to better protect your loved one.

”You need to make sure you come by [at] different times to visit, different times to check on her,” Tatum said. “See if their attitude has changed [or] their mental space has changed.”

KPRC 2 reached out to Houston Transitional Care. They provided the following statement:

“At Houston Transitional Care we are committed to providing high-quality care to our residents, and our staff’s exemplary efforts throughout the pandemic underscore that. While HIPAA privacy and personnel laws prevent us from commenting on many of the questions you raise, we can say that as a matter of public record, the state health oversight agency investigated the incident you reference and found no culpability with regard to HTC and our former employee,” said Spokesperson for Houston Transitional Care Dan Kramer.

KPRC 2 also reached out to Texas Health and Human Services to ask if they are aware of the charges against McDaniel.

They said, in part, “HHSC reviews and investigates allegations of abuse, neglect or misappropriation of resident property by nurse aides. If there’s a finding of an alleged act of abuse, neglect or misappropriation, the nurse aide may request both an informal reconsideration and a formal hearing before the finding is placed on the registry. Certified nursing aides must pass criminal background checks. Employers also are required to check the Nurse Aide Registry to ensure the CNA has not been barred from employment in Texas due to a confirmed allegation of abuse, neglect or exploitation.”

On their website, McDaniel’s is still listed as employable and has an active license.

HPD has a warrant out for her arrest.

“It’s very disheartening when something like this happens to an elderly,” Tatum said.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Conservatorships Keep the Homeless in Psychiatric Wards Too Long: Study

by Alan Mozes

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Homelessness is difficult enough, but when it's compounded by serious mental health issues the result can be an inability to function at even the most basic level.

Sometimes that leads to round-the-clock involuntary hospitalization, and when that happens a state-appointed psychiatric conservator can take over, making critical health care decisions for a person deemed mentally unstable.

But new research conducted in California warns that once a conservatorship is set up, there's a very real risk that a homeless individual will end up stuck in a psychiatric hospital for weeks or months — far exceeding what's needed and much longer than inpatient care provided to patients who aren't homeless.

The bottom line, according to lead researcher Kristen Choi, is that "our mental health care systems are falling short in meeting the needs of individuals who are homeless at every level." She's assistant professor in the schools of nursing and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Taxpayers also pay a hefty price: Choi's team estimates that it costs $767 per day (nearly $280,000 per year) to care for a homeless person on a psychiatric ward in California, compared to less than $14,000 to provide them with year-round housing. Most of the patients in the study were uninsured.

Last-resort option

In their research, the UCLA team tracked the progress of nearly 800 Los Angeles residents, aged 18 to 56, who were involuntarily hospitalized within a non-profit "safety net" psychiatric facility sometime between 2016 and 2018.

A little more than half of the patients did have housing and never ended up being placed in a conservatorship. In these cases if they were hospitalized it was typically for less than two weeks, Choi's team found.

But nearly half of admittees to psychiatric care were homeless. Among that group, about one in every seven were placed under a mental health conservatorship, according to the report.

Once that step was taken, these patients often faced "very lengthy hospital stays," averaging about five months, although some went even longer, Choi said.

A mental health conservatorship is "a strict legal process," she added. In California, it's a kind of highly restricted last-resort option, intended for limited durations in order to protect mentally impaired patients for whom "all other treatment options have been exhausted," Choi explained.

"Mental health conservatorships are for individuals who are 'gravely disabled' by serious mental health illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorders," she said. If unable to feed, clothe or house themselves, such patients can be deemed in need of a guardian who can step in to make mental health treatment decisions.

(As such, this arrangement is not to be confused with the much-publicized case of Britney Spears, whose conservatorship was of the financial affairs/probate variety; the pop star never lost her ability to make her own health care decisions.)

Once patients become stable enough, mental health conservatorships are meant to end, with patients shifting from an involuntary psychiatric hospital setting to a voluntary, community-based care model instead.

But housing is crucial to that transition.

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to stabilize mental illness for individuals who do not have their basic needs met, including housing," Choi explained.

And even if psychiatric stability is achieved, all patients face "a very long waitlist for beds at lower levels of care, such as in psychiatric step-down facilities, psychiatric rehabilitation facilities, and group homes," she added.

That means that patients under conservatorship often "have no choice but to wait in the hospital" after stabilization, Choi noted, sometimes for weeks or months.

Too few options

That wait ends up being a particularly heavy burden for homeless patients, given that 14% of the study's homeless patients were placed in a conservatorship compared to just 3% of patients with housing.

Overall, even though homeless admittees to psychiatric care under conservatorships made up just 6% of all the patients in the study, they ended up accounting for more than 40% of the total time spent hospitalized over the study period, the researchers found.

None of this is good for anyone, said Choi. But she believes that "hospitals have few options" when it comes to handling such patients, because there's been so little progress in improving access to either housing or community-based mental health services.

"It is important to note that the vast majority of people experiencing homelessness do not have mental illness," Choi stressed. "Homelessness is ultimately a problem of lack of housing, not lack of mental health care, and we must be cautious to not conflate homelessness and mental illness."

But she believes that "conservatorships are not appropriate or humane for the majority of people with mental illness," homeless or otherwise.

Hoping to address the situation in Los Angeles, Choi said she and her colleagues are linking street-based homeless outreach teams — such as L.A.'s Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME) program — with inpatient psychiatric services at facilities such as Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center.

Housing and health care

The problem isn't confined to California, of course. Alleviating mental illness among the homeless is an uphill battle everywhere, according to child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Nicole Kozloff.

"A lack of stable housing makes managing a serious mental illness a near-impossible task," said Kozloff, who is associate director of the Slaight Family Centre for Youth in Transition at the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute in Toronto.

In a perfect world, mental health treatment involves psychotherapy appointments, daily medication regimens, bloodwork, and medical check-ups, Kozloff said. But life on the streets is far from a perfect world.

"It is very difficult to maintain this routine if you have to prioritize your basic needs, don't have a private place to store your belongings, (and) can't afford transportation," Kozloff said. "Furthermore, the stress of being homeless can exacerbate existing mental health problems."

Kozloff agreed with Choi that solutions lie in improved access to permanent affordable housing, coupled with a wider availability of "mental health supports geared to a person's needs and choices."

Choi's team published their findings recently in the online issue of Psychiatric Services.

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Rockingham attorney disbarred

ROCKINGHAM — A Richmond County lawyer was disbarred last month for violating the N.C. Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct in a workers' compensation case a decade ago.

According to court documents, attorney H. Bright Lindler, who had been licensed to practice law since 1987, took on a workers' compensation case in or around June of 2008.

About a year later, Lindler negotiated a proposed $2,500 settlement with his client’s employer and insurance carrier. The client, referred to as A.M., initially agreed to the settlement, but soon after told Lindler that she didn’t want to accept it.

Despite a phone message from and conversation with the client, Lindler signed the agreement on behalf of his client to accept the $2,500.

The agreement was approved by the N.C. Industrial Commission on Sept. 30, 2009, awarding Lindler $625 to be taken from the settlement.

Lindler, court documents state, did not inform when the money came in.

However, on Nov. 2, Lindler sent his client a letter, asking her to make an appointment to discuss the $2,553.45 she owed his office and the final resolution of the case.

The client didn’t respond to Lindler’s letter and the attorney kept the entire $2,500 for himself, although, per the agreement, she was entitled to $1,875, according to court documents.

The client didn’t learn of the settlement until she contacted the Industrial Commission in June of 2010.

Documents show Lindler also failed to pay state or federal income taxes or withhold employment taxes for a number of years, with both the N.C. Department of Revenue and IRS placing liens on his property.

Lindler submitted an affidavit, signed Dec. 3, 2021, surrendering his law license and acknowledging “that the material facts upon which the pending complaint is predicated are true.”

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Opinion: My brother stole from our elderly parents — how did we miss the signs?

By Jiab Wasserman 

An adult child tries to figure out where the family went wrong — and their aging mother is at risk 


I have written about my parents being victims of financial abuse by one of my brothers. Recently, I returned to Bangkok, which gave me a chance to discuss this situation at length with the entire family, including my other brothers and my uncle.

When the financial abuse of an elderly person is committed by a stranger, the rest of the family often has no chance to see warning signs. But 90% of abusers are family members or trusted individuals. In these cases, there are often warning signs, but the family may not want to acknowledge the problem.

In my brother’s case, my uncle said he’d noticed his free-spending lifestyle. He’d purchased new luxury cars for himself and his wife shortly after gaining control of half my elderly parents’ money through a guardianship. In many ways, however, this financial abuse was part of a pattern that could be seen going back to his youth.

He was the only one out of four children, who’d continued to get substantial support from my parents throughout his life. While the rest of us have been supporting ourselves since we graduated from university, he continued to depend on our parents to make ends meet. It got to the point where he considered their financial assistance to be a normal part of his personal finances.

It’s common for Thai families to have multiple generations living together. What’s uncommon is a son who doesn’t give part of his salary to his parents, or at minimum pay his own expenses, while living with them. My brother not only didn’t pay expenses while living with our parents well into his 40s, but also he lived there with his wife and two children. He relied on my parents to pay most of his family’s living expenses: cars, gas, food, mobile phones and even part of the school tuition for his two daughters.

Six years ago, we were happy when he finally bought a home of his own. But he did so by selling two of my mom’s plots of land and using the proceeds for the down payment. I objected to this, but my mother said the gift would be offset later through my parents’ wills. Since then, she’s backed off that commitment.

Subsequently, my brother borrowed the rest of the money he needed to build his new home from my parents—a loan he never finished paying off. In other words, my parents paid for him to live with them and then paid for him to move out.

My other brothers, uncle and the rest of our family agree that it was partly my parents’ responsibility to stop the support—to say “no” to him. But they were always generous with family, having taken in siblings at times when money was tight and they had nowhere to go. Their generosity had never endangered their savings, however, until my brother started taking.

Even worse, my brother began to surreptitiously take without even asking. As our father was dying in the hospital, my brother—supposedly helping to oversee his expenses—maxed out my father’s credit cards for personal use. It was a perfect storm. My parents’ generosity and kindness, and my brother’s pilfering, now leave my mother at risk of not having enough to support herself in her widowhood.

I confronted my brother when I was in Bangkok and was shocked by his attitude. He admitted no wrongdoing, although he acknowledged our parents didn’t consent to his spending. He claimed that he just meant to borrow the money temporarily.

My other brothers and I failed to see the warning signs that were there all along. We and my uncle agreed that we should have sensed there was something off. Perhaps my brother’s early habit of living off my parents made his later taking seem normal. It created a blind spot for us—even as he went further than we ever thought he would.

I honestly didn’t think this could happen in a family like ours, one that includes two bankers. Now I regret that I wasn’t more insistent with my parents about my brother’s habit of living off them—and that I didn’t confront him sooner. In the end, my abusive brother took advantage of our parents’ generosity. The responsibility lies on his shoulders, as it does on the thief more than the sleeping security guard.

Not everyone who lives at home and receives financial support from their parents is an abuser. But when parental support grows from occasional to constant, creating a sense of dependency and entitlement, the groundwork is laid for grotesque abuse. In my brother’s case, he came to see our parents’ money as his own, to be spent as he wished, especially when he had access to half of it.

Even with the clear evidence we’ve discovered of my brother’s theft, my mother still has trouble understanding. Her mental decline, combined with a motherly denial of the idea that her son stole from her, keeps her from taking action. We, the remaining children, now are doing what we can to minimize the financial impact. But we also have to protect our mother from the full reality of what has happened—a reality that might be too much for her.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Minnesota man battling COVID-19 moved to Texas hospital after lawsuit over ventilator

By Paul Blume

A Buffalo, Minnesota man suffering from a devastating case of COVID-19 is in Texas where his family is hoping and praying doctors there can save his life.

Scott Quiner’s family went to court last week to get a restraining order to keep Allina Health from pulling the plug on the ventilator that was keeping him alive in Minnesota.

FOX 9 does not have all the specifics of Quiner’s medical records, but his loved ones and their attorney report the 55-year old father of three was unvaccinated when he was first diagnosed with COVID-19 in late October, around Halloween.

He required deep sedation, a breathing tube, and a ventilator when his oxygen levels got dangerously low and did not improve.

Scott’s wife, Anne Quiner claims Allina threatened to pull the plug on that ventilator last week and that is when she went to court to fight.

Anne has power of attorney over Scott’s healthcare decisions. She hired lawyer Marjorie Holsten to stop Allina from pulling the plug on the ventilator, a move she believes would have killed him.

"This is a life-saving thing. It is going to be critical," explained Holsten, who admits she has never handled a case like this one.

The Quiners have stated in public comments and social media that Allina would not treat Scott with certain drugs, nor would they attempt other extraordinary measures that might save his life. When the medical team allegedly told the family that Scott had just a couple more days on the ventilator, Holsten rushed to court to obtain the restraining order. The judge signed it Thursday.

"It was mentioned on Monday, confirmed on Tuesday," said Holsten. "By Tuesday, they said, ok, Thursday at noon, we pull the plug. I don’t think the judge wanted to be on the wrong side of saying, ‘Of course, you should be able to pull the plug’ so the judge was correct doing that."

Over the weekend, Scott was transferred on a med flight to an unidentified hospital in Texas, apparently willing to meet the family’s medical wishes for life-saving treatments. By Sunday evening, he was already said to be improving on the ventilator while being weaned from the heavy sedatives, and provided extra nutrients.

His family claims that it appears most of his major organs are functioning well, except his lungs.

"I think the world is watching what is going on with Scott," Holsten told FOX 9’s Paul Blume. "And as he gets better and better, we are going to see that you know what, there are protocols that should be used that hospitals have not been using. And I am hoping that changes are going to be made as a result of this case."

Allina would not discuss specifics of Quiner’s medical condition and case history, but provided FOX 9 with a brief written statement that read in part: "Allina Health is grateful the family was able to find a health care facility that meets their needs and we continue to wish them all the best."

Meantime, the Quiners have raised tens of thousands of dollars for Scott’s emergency, life-saving care through a pair of online fundraisers in recent days, boosted by significant online coverage of his case.

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Man Invites 89-Year-Old Neighbor To Live With Him So She Isn't Alone In Her Final Days

Doctors had determined Norma Cook couldn't live alone and she was going to be moved to a facility when her neighbor stepped in.

Elderly people are often consumed by loneliness, and that was the case for Norma Cook, an 84-year-old woman living in West Hollywood. When 26-year-old Chris Salvatore moved in next door, little did she think that they'd become best friends. Their meeting would lead to a 5-year friendship culminating with Salvatore inviting her to live with him as she lived out her final days. It all started after she saw him from her kitchen window. They exchanged greetings before he asked if he could come in and say hello. She welcomed him, starting a 5-year-long friendship, reported My Modern Met. 

Cook lived alone with her cat Hermes, who also took to Salvatore pretty fast. Salvatore and Cook often hung out, bonding over their champagne and gossip. Some of their treasured memories include pizza nights, eating out, and going to birthday parties. For Cook, Salvatore was “the grandson she never had.” At the age of 89, Cook fell ill. She was living alone and her life took a turn for the worse. Towards the end of 2016, she was hospitalized with pneumonia and suffered breathing complications. She was also diagnosed with leukemia. She didn't have any money and the social security check barely covered rent. She was faced with the prospect of losing her home and her cat.
The doctors took the call that it was not safe for her to live alone, and she would be forced to go into a facility to live out her final days. She had no relatives or loved ones she could rely on. Salvatore just couldn't let it happen. “I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother,” said Salvatore at the time, offering she move in with him. “My apartment was the only place she would have moved. She has strong opinions about where she wants to carry out the rest of her days, and she wants to stay here,” recalled Salvatore. “Moving her in…it feels as though it was meant to be all along. It’s really fulfilling to be there for her.” It wasn't just about providing a home and critical care for Cook. The costs of the same went way beyond what Salvatore could afford but he still fought to find a way.

He started a GoFundMe campaign to help her. Within seven hours, “Help Norma Pay for 24-hour Home Care” raised over $25,000. Within a month, the campaign raised over $50,000. “I’m so happy I was able to give her this gift of living her last days at home,” said Chris. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through the end of your life at a hospital without your friends or pets. "I never expected to raise $50,000. It was definitely a miracle.” The campaign ended up raising more than $75,000.

Cook moved in with Salvatore along with Hermes, her cat. Salvatore cooked for her, and they spent their time as they had done previously. Drinking champagne, eating peanuts and watching the news. The doctors said she didn't have long to live, not expecting her to live past the holidays. The pair celebrated New Year together and shared a few more happy memories before she passed away in February 2017. Salvatore was heartbroken but thankful for the time they spent together. “I feel her watching over me and it is a happy feeling,” he said after she passed away, reported TODAY. “She is out of pain and in peace, probably drinking a glass of champagne, dancing, reunited with the many friends that she's had throughout her life. I am forever a changed man and I thank this magnificent lady for everything she has taught me.”

Earlier this year, on her death anniversary he paid tribute to her and their friendship with a post on Instagram. “Over the years I have read so many wonderful messages about how inspiring my love for my neighbor Norma was, but what truly inspires me is the great capacity she had to love me. When we choose to love another, so many others feel it too. Beautiful, bountiful, blessings bestowed upon those you never knew,” he wrote
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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Hospital Overcrowding Prompts Push For Guardianship and Informed Consent Reforms

By Leo Brine

Seattle Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43) is working on a bill to reform Washington’s informed consent and guardianship laws, which have prevented hospitals from discharging some patients who need long-term care at a time when hospitals need as many beds as possible to handle the latest spike in COVID cases.

Washington’s guardianship and informed consent laws have prevented hospitals and family members from transferring some patients who cannot make decisions for themselves into long-term care facilities even when a family member has given consent. Macri has a bill cued up which will address the problem, she said.

While the state’s informed consent laws empower family members to make many decisions for incapacitated people, they don’t allow incapacitated patients to leave hospitals for long-term care without the consent of a court-appointed guardian. The reason? Money: Guardians are responsible for paying for long-term care.

It can take months for courts to establish someone as a patient’s guardian, so Macri wants to amend the state’s informed consent laws to make it easier for patients to move to long-term care facilities while allowing courts to establish guardianship for the patient’s long-term financial management later.

Right now, hospitals have patients occupying hospital beds that could be used to treat people with acute needs because they don’t have a paper saying who’s going to front the bill.

As of January 12, Washington state has 2,062 COVID patients in hospitals with 172 on ventilators, according to state data. In King County, hospitalizations more than doubled between January 2 and January 9, county data shows.

Hospitals in Washington have said they are in “a state of crisis” after operating for months at high capacity and now with omicron sending more people to the hospital than ever before.

The Washington State Medical Association sent Governor Jay Inslee a letter last week saying that hospitals are in “a state of crisis” and asking the governor to change guardianship laws so that family members can agree to transfers. The letter included the draft of a proclamation that, if Inslee signed, would have that efect.

However, Inslee said last week that he does not have the executive authority to make the proclamation because, “you have to comply with federal law to admit someone to a long-term care facility. I cannot waive federal law.”

Instead, the governor—inadvertently highlighting the need for Macri’s fix—announced Thursday that he hopes to increase the number of social service workers who work on patient transfers. He also proposed create a program to expedite the process of establishing guardianships and increase the number of guardians, which could help reduce the backlog of patients stuck in hospitals. “[This] may involve more resources for the superior court,” he said. Additionally, to help long-term care facilities take on more discharged hospital patients, he’d add new health care workers to long term care facilities.

Macri says her bill is still necessary because establishing guardianship “can still take months even with the steps that [Inslee is] putting in place.” Her bill will change informed consent laws to allow family members, those with power of attorney, and other surrogate decision makers to consent to a patient’s transfer to a long-term facility.

Macri plans to meet with the governor’s team about her bill to hammer out how it fits in with Inslee’s plans and to address some concerns the governor’s office has around informed consent. One potential sticking point is that, according to Macri, Inslee’s team is sticking with their position that only guardians should be able to make these transfers happen.

Meanwhile, patients without guardians are not the only ones who are having a hard time getting out of hospitals. Often, there are no shelter beds available for homeless patients. And some patients came to the hospital from long-term care facilities but are unable to go back into their care because of understaffing.

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Michigan judge berates 72-year-old cancer patient over weeds, says she would send him to jail if she could

A judge in Hamtramck berated a 72-year-old man for having overgrown weeds in his yard.

"Shameful!" Judge Alexis Krot said. "If I could give you jail time on this, I would."

During a virtual hearing, Burhan Chowdhury is seen struggling with the language as his son attempts to explain why the yard was messy. He was cited by the city's code enforcement for his overgrown yard.

He explained that his father has cancer and is not doing well.

"My father is currently sick and weak," his son said.

As the son tried to explain the circumstances, Krot raised her voice and asked if he had seen the photo of the blight.

Neighbors said Chowdhury went back to native country of Bangladesh for about two months in the summer for his son's wedding, and that's when the yard started to get bad.

Chowdhury was ordered to pay a $100 fine by Feb. 1, and the yard has since been cleaned up.

When FOX 2 reached out to Krot, she said she would like to comment but state judge administrator said she couldn't.

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Bad judgment? New Orleans judge charged with allegedly failing to pay taxes on cash she earned officiating weddings

By Lukas I. Alpert
Prosecutors say Ernestine Anderson-Trahan officiated hundreds of weddings for cash fees of $80 and up, but never disclosed the income to the IRS.
Judge Ernestine Anderson-Trahan is accused of failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in income she collected for presiding over weddings. (Getty Images)

The couples said “I do,” but this judge said “I don’t” to the IRS.

A New Orleans judge has been indicted on charges that she failed to disclose on her taxes the thousands of dollars she earned in fees for officiating weddings over several years.

Ernestine “Teena” Anderson-Trahan, 55, has been a judge in the Second City Court in the Parish of Orleans dating back to 2013, hearing civil cases, small claims disputes and eviction proceedings. 

On the side, she presided over weddings, both in the courthouse and at private ceremonies, prosecutors said.

Between 2013 and 2017, Anderson-Trahan oversaw hundreds of ceremonies, charging between $80 and $100 in cash for in-court weddings and more for nuptials held off-site, according to court papers. But prosecutors say she failed to disclose any of that income on her tax returns.

A message left with an attorney for Anderson-Trahan wasn’t immediately returned. 

The issue came to attention in 2018, when WVUE-TV aired a report pointing out that several judges in local New Orleans courthouses were charging fees on the side to officiate weddings, possibly in violation of the law. The report said the judges each were collecting as much as $25,000 in supplemental income each year.

Anderson-Trahan faces up to 12 years in federal prison if convicted on all four of the counts of filing false tax returns with which she has been charged. 

A message left with a spokesman for the court wasn’t immediately returned. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Anderson-Trahan had been suspended from her duties as a judge.

Anderson-Trahan, a Democrat, was automatically re-elected in 2018 after running unopposed. Before becoming a judge, Anderson-Trahan was a lawyer in New Orleans after having passed the bar in 1992.

Monday, January 17, 2022

WANTED: Two Bronx, New York men for elderly scam theft in Ocean County, NJ

Two men who reside in the Bronx, New York are wanted for their roles in an elderly scam that took place in Ocean County, Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer announced on Thursday.

There are warrants out for the arrests of 34-year old Jorge Peguero-Mendez and 24-year old Richard Quinones-Perez who have each been charged with Theft by Deception as well as Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception.

This all stems from an incident that occurred last month in Barnegat when an elderly woman received a call from a man claiming to be her grandson.
He said he was in a motor vehicle accident in New York City and that he was arrested because the other driver sustained injuries and that he already had a lawyer appointed to represent him.

Shortly thereafter, the woman got a second phone call, this from a man claiming to be the man's attorney (her fake grandson) and he said he could get her 'grandson' out of custody if she gave him $8,000 in cash.

Both men then drove down to Barnegat and one of the men pretended to be a courier there to pick up the $8,000.

When she spoke to her family, the woman realized that she had fallen victim to a scam and that her grandson was not arrested.
Barnegat Police began an investigation and along the way they learned that similar incidents, scams had occurred recently in Hopewell Township as well as up in Nassau County, New York.

As the investigation progressed, Barnegat Police worked with Hopewell Police, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General, Nassau County New York Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad.

Peguero-Mendez and Quinones-Perez were later identified as the individuals responsible for the scamming incidents in all those areas.

If you or someone you believes you've been victimized by these men or know any information on where they are, you're urged to contact Officer Robert Armstrong of the Barnegat Township Police Department at (609) 698-5000.

“These types of incidents should serve as a cautionary tale for all of our senior citizens here in Ocean County, as well as a reminder that unscrupulous individuals are out there just waiting to prey upon the most vulnerable members of our community,” Prosecutor Billhimer said in a statement. “Please be vigilant in identifying these fraudulent phone calls, and recognize that any phone call or message requesting large sums of cash or wire transfers is likely a scam. These types of calls should be immediately reported to law enforcement."
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Police: nursing assistant stole thousands from resident at The Gardens at Wyoming Valley

by Dylan Fearon
Inside The Gardens at Wyoming Valley nursing home, residents expect to be cared for. So do their families. 
What they don't expect is a certified nursing assistant to steal thousands of dollars from a man living there.

But Wilkes-Barre City police say that's exactly what happened in September and October of last year.

Cops are accusing certified nursing assistant Alyssa Nappa, 24, with stealing a resident's wallet, which had his identification, social security card and debit card in it. 

The resident's son visited his father and noticed the wallet missing. After calling M&T Bank, they realized there were a large number of withdraws on the account, totaling more than $10,000. Then the resident froze his account.

Police were able to obtain records from the nursing home to find out which employees had worked on the resident's floor from September 16 to October 8. Police then obtained surveillance footage of Nappa and Zachary Wengzen, 25, withdrawing money and using the debit card at several local establishments. "Approximately $13,049 in withdraws and fees were taken out of (the victim's) bank account from 9/27/2021 to 10/12/2021 before he was able to freeze his account," the criminal complaint says.

Police say Nappa was an employee at the nursing home, but hasn't been showing up to shifts. Police have also attempted to contact Nappa but have been unsuccessful. Nappa and Wengzen have been charged with theft, receiving stolen property and access device fraud. Warrants are out for both of their arrests.

FOX56 interviewed Nappa in May when she and other employees at The Gardens at Wyoming Valley were protesting and demanding better pay and conditions in nursing homes. 

"When the pandemic started, a lot of people walked off the jobs because it has been very hard, very stressful," Nappa said in May. Just months later, the alleged theft took place. 

Nappa and Wengzen's arrest warrants were signed by magisterial district judge Thomas F. Malloy.

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Defending Elderly: Know Your Rights Against Nursing Home Abuse

by kashif

When an elderly member of a family is no longer able to live on their own, families must make difficult decisions about their loved one’s care. The solution is often to find a good nursing home and place the loved one there for safety and care. That decision helps the families reduce worry about the person and relieves the family members of taking care of the family member on a daily basis. But, what happens when the nursing home neglects or allows patient abuse?

What is Classified as Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse can come in many forms, which can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial abuse, or patient exploitation. Legally, nursing home abuse happens when patients in long-term care facilities or nursing homes suffer physical, psychological, or emotional harm because of the intentional acts or neglect of their caregivers.

Getting Help For Those Suffering Nursing Home Abuse

It is unfortunate that nursing home resident abuse is as common in America as it is. However, there is help available in the form of law firms that represent families in bringing lawsuits against nursing homes that allow their residents to be abused. It is important to seek legal help to determine if the injury or complaint of a nursing home resident is due to an accident or nursing home abuse or neglect. This is not easy to prove without legal help from experienced investigators at law firms such as Hughey Law firm.

Signs of Abuse to Look For

There are always signs of abuse to look for when a family suspects their loved one is being abused. They include:

  • Physical abuse signs can include bruising or welts, unexplained broken bones, unexplained burns, hair loss, the caregiver refusing to leave you alone with your loved one, and more.
  • Emotional abuse signs can include new low self-esteem, depression, hopeless feelings expressed by the patient, changes in eating and sleeping habits, self-injury, crying and begging for help, and others.
  • Sexual abuse signs can include unexplained STDS and vaginal infections, vaginal bleeding without explanation, bruising on the thighs, breasts, and vaginal area, difficulty with sitting or walking, damaged clothing and bloodstains, and fear around a caregiver.
  • Neglect can be life-threatening and includes signs like medical needs not being met, failing to meet nutritional or care needs of a patient, dirty, unkempt spaces, residents too heavily medicated, patients allowed to wander around or out of the facility without supervision, and more.
  • Financial abuse signs might be harder to spot but can include sudden or unexplained transfers of money to another individual, will changes, residents’ personal belonging going missing, and forged signatures on financial documents.

Residents have a right to proper and safe care in any nursing home. when that is not given or their wellbeing is neglected or damaged, it is time to seek legal help to rectify the situation. 

It is not enough to simply move the resident to another facility because this lets the guilty parties keep abusing other residents. It is important to report bad nursing homes to proper government entities so they can be closed or forced to meet better standards of care. There are federal laws protecting nursing home residents. A law firm can make sure those rights are followed or seek damages from nursing homes that are not meeting the standards for the care of residents.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Will a conservatorship help homelessness in San Diego County?

While there's no plan in place yet, some are excited while some say it's not the solution.
Author: Regina Ahn, CBS News 8 Team

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The homelessness crisis in San Diego has been a priority for state and local leaders.

With a diverse population, there's a lot to be done to help combat the situation, and one tool is a conservatorship program for the homeless. While there's no plan in place yet, some are excited while some say it's not the solution.

"This year, I’m pushing for state action on conservatorships," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in his State of the City address on Wednesday.

Conservatorships in which a court appointed conservator manages another person's living situation, medical decisions, and mental health treatment – has gotten support from both Mayor Todd Gloria and Governor Gavin Newsom.

"We have more treatment programs, more conservatorships," said Gov. Newsom.

However, San Diego attorney Scott Dreher, who has worked with homeless people for over 20-years says it may not be the answer.

He says the issue and solution is too complex. 

In San Diego, it’s extremely difficult to get a conservatorship, according to experts. It requires a judge’s order and there are limited conservatorships, and a family member must be present.

"Anyone who thinks that ‘oh, we’ll just put everyone in a conservatorship’ and that’ll take care of that…that’s never going to happen, that’s not the way around this," said Dreher.

Dreher says while it may be a solution for some people, there are more pressing things that could help. "What's going to solve the problem is giving people a place to be that may not have a place to be," said Dreher.

Mayor Gloria and Dreher both say housing is the biggest issue to combat homelessness.

"The shortage of homes every day San Diegans can afford is splitting up families," said Mayor Gloria.

But there’s also the issue of being mindful and compassionate towards the homeless population,

Amie Zamudio is the homeless outreach director with “Housing 4 The Homeless” and says there are no simple solutions.

"What we’re seeing is there are some people who cannot take care of themselves and no matter how much support we offer, they refuse support,” said Zamudio. “They just can’t take care of themselves it’s not humane to leave people out on these streets to decay and die."

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