Saturday, April 29, 2023

San Mateo elderly care facility fined, at risk of losing license after poisoning deaths of two residents

Atria Park of San Mateo was fined nearly $40,000 by the California Department of Social Services, and could get its license revoked

By Austin Turner

The San Mateo senior-living facility where two residents died after accidentally being served dishwashing fluid is now facing a hefty fine and the threat of losing its elderly care residency license, according to reports filed by the California Department of Social Services.

Trudy Maxwell and Peter Schroder Jr., both 93 and residents of Atria Park of San Mateo, died last year after they allegedly drank toxic dishwashing fluid mistakenly served as cranberry juice. The facility employee that is accused of pouring the fluid into a beverage container, 35-year-old Alisia Rivera Mendoza of East Palo Alto, was charged April 11 with two counts of felony involuntary manslaughter and three counts of felony elder abuse.

A 94-year-old man at an Atria-run home in Walnut Creek died last year after he mistakenly drank toxic cleaning fluid that had been left in an unlocked storage container. A 54-year-old employee was charged with one count of elder abuse in that case.

Now, the facility itself is facing legal action from the State of California. The state’s Department of Social Services website lists that revocation action is pending as of March 7. A facility evaluations report filed on March 21 says that the department’s accusations supporting the pending license revocation and de-certification have been distributed to residents, the people responsible for them, and a local ombudsman.

Another facility evaluation report was filed on April 14, this time directly citing Atria Park for the August poisoning incident.

According to the report, the department found that employees weren’t properly trained on how to handle potentially dangerous chemicals. The department issued a $39,500 fine to the facility — $15,000 per death as a result of the incident and $10,000 based on the additional resident that was hospitalized as a result; $500 was already paid after an immediate fine was issued during a February visit.

The department has visited Atria Park of San Mateo five times in the first four months of 2023. It visited the facility seven times in 2022, with six of those visits coming after the deadly Aug. 28 incident.

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Atria Senior Living provided the following statement:

“We disagree with the Department of Social Services’ decision and have filed a notice of contest to appeal that decision. We are in discussions with the Department about resolution of that appeal. During this process, Atria Park of San Mateo will remain open, and our employees continue to be focused on providing a safe and welcoming environment for all our residents.

“This incident has been a tragedy. It is in no way indicative of the quality care our staff provide each and every day. We remain deeply saddened by the deaths of our residents, and our hearts are with their families and loved ones. As always, we are focused on the safety, health, and well-being of all our residents.”

Full Article & Source:
San Mateo elderly care facility fined, at risk of losing license after poisoning deaths of two residents

Dementia and Eyesight: 3 Common Changes and Behaviors

Vision changes can cause strange dementia behavior

Dementia causes a variety of changes in the brain, including how the eyes see and how the brain processes the information the eyes bring in.

When seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia behave in strange ways, we might assume they’re hallucinating.

Hallucination is a possible symptom, but the behavior could also be explained by changes in their vision.

But this strange behavior can be incredibly stressful for us to observe. We think the worst of our older adult’s mental state and worry that they’re declining more quickly.

Knowing about vision changes helps you understand why your older adult could be doing these things, reduces fear and worry, and makes dementia care a little easier.

In this 2 minute video, expert dementia educator Teepa Snow explains how dementia can change vision and what type of behaviors we might see because of those vision changes.

Dementia and eyesight: 3 common changes and behaviors

1. Field of vision narrows
Teepa explains that by the time we’re 75 years old, the normal changes related to aging reduce our normal peripheral vision a little bit, so we’re not able to see and notice as much as we would when we were younger (17 sec in video).

When someone has dementia, their field of vision narrows to about 12 inches around. As Teepa says, it’s like wearing binoculars (33 sec in video).

If you were to use binoculars and try to move around normally, it would be very difficult.

2. The brain shuts down information, making it harder to see things right in front of them
As dementia advances, the brain may find that the information coming in through two eyes is too overwhelming.

So, it effectively shuts down the information coming from one eye – at that point, your older adult could basically be seeing through one eye (56 sec in video).

That means they lose depth perception and can’t tell if something is two-dimensional or three-dimensional.

That makes it hard for your older adult to know if something is a pattern in the carpet or an object on the floor, a real apple or a picture of an apple, or what the chair seat’s height is (1 min 23 sec in video).

 3. Changes in vision cause behavior changes that don’t make sense to us
These changes in vision can cause someone to do things that seem strange to us.

Teepa shows how someone might seem like they’re picking at the air, but they’re actually trying to turn off the ceiling light because it seems much closer than it really is (1 min 59 sec in video).

Because they don’t have depth perception, they don’t know how far away the light really is.

Your older adult might also bend over slightly and start picking at the air around waist level.

That looks strange to us, but they could be trying to pick something up from the floor. They just don’t have depth perception to know that the floor is still a couple of feet away.

This type of behavior might look very strange to us, but your older adult is just responding to the world as they see it and it makes complete sense to them.

If we were seeing what they were, we’d probably be doing the same things.

Full Article & Source:
Dementia and Eyesight: 3 Common Changes and Behaviors

Oregon Bill Aims to Help Brain Injury Survivors Access, Locate Services

(KATU 2) — A bill in the Oregon Legislature is looking to help survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) locate and access the multiple different types of critical services needed in their recovery.

“Every TBI is different and for me the biggest challenges are balance and coordination,” said Dave Nichols who is recovering from a TBI he suffered after a rock climbing injury five years ago.

He and his mother, Kathryn Nichols, brought multiple lawmakers to tears with their testimony supporting Senate Bill 420 during a hearing April 5. CONTINUE

Full Article & Source:
Oregon Bill Aims to Help Brain Injury Survivors Access, Locate Services

Friday, April 28, 2023

Guardianship in Pa. could change, pending proposed legislation to make it a ‘choice of last resort’

By Kevin Gavin, Marylee Williams, Laura Tsutsui, Emma Furry 

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

  • Film Pittsburgh’s annual JFilm Festival kicked off last week. This year’s lineup includes, “The Cure for Hate,” a documentary about a former Holocaust denier, Tony McAleer, who is telling his story to combat extremism and white supremacy. We speak with McAleer ahead of tonight’s film screening, and an in-person discussion with McAleer and director Peter Hutchison. (6:37 - 13:38) 
  • University of Pittsburgh alumnus and Olympic-medal winner Herb Douglas passed away Saturday at the age of 101. The Confluence spoke to Douglas in 2019 after a book about his life and legacy entitled “Launched: The Life of Olympian Herb Douglas” was published. We revisit that interview. (13:48 - 22:30) 
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Friday at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here for wherever you get your podcasts.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship in Pa. could change, pending proposed legislation to make it a ‘choice of last resort’

Trial underway for guardianship of disabled Riverside man who alleges sexual abuse at foster home staff

RIVERSIDE (KABC) -- The trial is now underway in Riverside County to decide who will care for Ryan Morris, a 29-year-old intellectually disabled man who says he was raped while in foster care.

Morris' biological family is fighting for legal guardianship in a very complicated case.

Morris, who has cerebral palsy, spent the vast majority of his life in either foster care or in the custody of public guardian.

"Ryan ended up getting stuck in the system," his aunt, Monica Mukai, told Eyewitness News.

She says Morris' twin brother Ronald was born first, and Morris was not born for another 2.5 hours, depriving him of oxygen and causing his disability.

He was first adopted by a foster parent when he was 3 years old, Mukai told Eyewitness News.

Mukai says Morris' foster mom Michelle Morris, who ran a facility in southwest Riverside County known as the Morris Family Home, allowed him to be the subject of all kinds of abuse.

Michelle Morris and her husband have both been arrested and charged with a number of crimes including lewd conduct and child endangerment.

"Ryan has told me that he has been raped. Not only in the jacuzzi, but also in his own bed, while he was under the care of Michelle Morris," said Mukai.

Mukai also says the sexual abuse goes even further. She says Ryan Morris was forced to marry an employee at his foster home, Sean Spicer, by his foster mom.

Spicer is also fighting for guardianship of Ryan Morris, even though a judge has previously removed him from that position.

Mukai has been fighting for guardianship of Ryan Morris for seven years, yet he remains in the system.

And it gets even more complicated. Ryan Morris' lawyer does not want Mukai to be appointed conservator because he is afraid she will cut off contact between Ryan Morris and his husband, Spicer.

The trial is expected to end by this week, and the judge will decide if Ryan Morris stays in the system or is returned to his biological family.

Ryan Morris' brother, Ronald Moore, hopes his twin returns to be with his family.

"You know, I'm here for him, and us as his family, we care about him. And, for our good times, to kind of flourish, so we can make good memories," Moore said.

Full Article & Source:
Trial underway for guardianship of disabled Riverside man who alleges sexual abuse at foster home


See Also:
Could woman accused of murder be appointed disabled man’s guardian?

Biological family’s fight for disabled California man finally lands before judge


Part 3: Twins, divided: Brothers will see each other in court

Disabled man’s removal from husband into ‘temporary’ guardianship to drag on for nearly 2 years

Former director of nursing charged, accused of stealing opioids from patients at Summittville retirement home

by: Izzy Karpinski

SUMMITTVILLE, Ind. — What started as the discovery of 30 missing pills snowballed into more than 250 pills unaccounted for at a Madison County retirement home.

A Medicaid fraud investigator with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General investigated Summit Health and Living (SHL) in Summittville after employees’ concerns with the director of nursing at the time, Jennifer Wilson.

According to the investigator’s report, the facility was made aware of a discrepancy in its narcotic count on February 13. As part of state and federal guidelines, SHL tracks all controlled substances and keeps a narcotic count sheet. Staff is also required to fill out drug destruction forms when medication is taken off the nursing cart but not given to a patient.

Wilson, a registered nurse, was tasked with destroying hydrocodone pills prescribed to a resident. When a fellow administrator followed up with Wilson, she was told the issue “was taken care of.” However, the co-worker could not find the accompanying count sheet.

Court documents show Wilson’s colleague went into her office to find the sheet and instead found 30 hydrocodone pills concealed in a manila folder in the back of a desk drawer.

Wilson was questioned by the facility’s administrator the next day and admitted she had stolen the medication for personal use due to her addiction.

An internal audit found approximately 261 pills unaccounted for and believed to have been stolen. The pills in question were hydrocodone and Percocets and were prescribed to at least four patients.

During the investigation, Wilson revealed she would take pills that had been marked for “discontinuation.” She said she was at SHL for a few months before she gave in to her addiction.

Wilson was booked into the Madison County Jail on obtaining controlled substance by fraud, possession of narcotic and furnishing false or fraudulent information charges.

She was fired from SHL after an internal investigation.

Full Article & Source:
Former director of nursing charged, accused of stealing opioids from patients at Summittville retirement home

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Community steps in to help special needs man save childhood home in guardianship battle

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — Christian Chambers has lived his whole life in a small house in Clarkston. His parents left Christian, who has Cerebral palsy, the home so he would always have a place to live. But his mom’s court-appointed guardian recently tried to sell that house.

Christian is a constant in Clarkston. The 50-year-old volunteers as a coach with the Clarkston High School football team and he’s well-known around town.

“He's been here 50 years. And this is where he wants to stay,” Christian’s brother, John Chambers told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo in October.

Last fall, the 7 Investigators showed you how Christian was devastated to learn that his mother’s court-appointed guardian was trying to sell the home.

“It's horrible to do this to anybody,” said John.

Several years ago, a judge appointed Attorney Jennifer Carney to be Doreen Chamber’s guardian, which means Carney has total say over Doreen’s medical and financial decisions. Christian’s brothers say their parents left the family home to Christian in a Special Needs trust. But a mix up with the deed prompted Carney to count the home as Doreen’s asset, so Carney entered into a purchase agreement to try to sell it. Christian’s trustee says just before Carney told the family Christian would need to find a new place to live, she brought a realtor through the home.

“Starts just wandering around the house, taking pictures, measuring, and I'm going, ‘What? What are you doing,’” said Trustee Ron Dunlap in October 2022.

According to court records, Carney billed Doreen’s estate $750 for that visit to the home. Records show she also billed $120 to sign the purchase agreement, even though legal experts say guardians are not allowed to sell property without court approval.

The Chambers family started an online fundraiser to help save Christian’s home and pay for improvements.

And after the 7 Investigators shared Christian’s story in October, legal experts stepped in to help Christian.

We’ve now obtained court records that show Carney and the family recently came to an agreement that will allow Christian to keep the home his parents left him.

The court records reveal, Carney will receive $9,300 as part of the settlement and will continue on as Doreen’s guardian without receiving further payment.

On Christian’s online fundraising page, the family issued a statement thanking the community for their generous support.

"GRATITUDE! There is no better word to sum up Christian’s heart for the Clarkston Community’s generosity and participation in the effort to save his home. IT WORKED! With your assistance and pro-bono legal counsel, Christian resolved his court battle and will be able to live out his days in his childhood home. This life-long Clarkston resident and community servant will continue to be able to walk through his backyard to “coach” on the sidelines of sporting events. He will still be able to attend and serve in Clarkston Community Church. And he will continue to share his hallmark smile with all those he meets.

Though we can all rejoice in the news that Christian’s home has been saved, work remains to make it more accessible and functional. To date, one of two bathrooms has been renovated and safety rails have been put up for Christian to safely navigate steps. New, more accessible kitchen cabinets will soon be installed thanks to the generosity of Drew’s Home of Clarkston. And Christian’s brother, John, has created a comfortable space for a future roommate to help offset household expenses.

With your continued support, Christian can ensure his house will be safe and accessible for the rest of his life. We are halfway to our goal so let’s keep the momentum going! If you would like to join the effort visit

With deepest gratitude to the Clarkston Community,

Christian and family"
Donors gave more than $13,000 to help Christian. The family hopes donations can continue to come in to keep Christian’s home safe and easier to navigate.

The 7 Investigators called, texted and emailed the guardian, Jennifer Carney. So far she has not commented on the settlement in the case.

Full Article & Source:
Community steps in to help special needs man save childhood home in guardianship battle

CSB recognizes attorney for undoing disbarred lawyer’s theft

By: Pat Murphy

CSB Chair Gary M. Weiner (left), honoree Mary M. Howie and SJC Justice Frank M. Gaziano

Mary M. Howie didn’t think much of it when she took on the case of a mother and daughter victimized by an unscrupulous lawyer who stole the proceeds from the sale of their home.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was doing anything major,” the elder law attorney says. “I was just doing my job.”

So when Howie was recently informed that she had been selected to receive the Client Security Board’s William J. LeDoux Award, the news didn’t really sink in at first.

“OK, thank you very much,” Howie told the caller on the other end of the phone. “Are you going to be mailing that to me?”

But then Howie was told she would be receiving the prestigious award from a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court at an upcoming ceremony, and it dawned on her that maybe this was a big deal.

At an April 13 ceremony held in the Seven Justice Courtroom of Boston’s John Adams Courthouse, Justice Frank M. Gaziano presented the LeDoux award to Howie for securing $184,000 in compensation from the CSB on behalf of the two Massachusetts women who suffered significant financial losses due to the theft of funds by East Brookfield lawyer Harland L. Smith Jr.

Howie represented the deceased mother’s estate that had as remainder beneficiary a special needs trust, and the deceased mother’s daughter, who suffers from mental disabilities and was a beneficiary of the trust.

A member of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Howie says the matter was referred to her by Lia Marino, who had been representing the mother until she took a position in the state court system.

One of the first steps Howie took was to become the trustee for the special needs trust that had been established by the mother for her daughter and two sons.

Appearing before the CSB, Howie established that Smith in 2014 had received the net proceeds from the sale of real estate that was jointly owned by the mother and daughter.

But instead of handing over the proceeds to his clients, Smith used the money for his own purposes. Smith was disbarred in 2019 for intentionally misusing client funds in the mother-daughter matter as well as a case in which he represented a wife in a divorce proceeding.

In an April 5, 2019, disbarment order, Gaziano recounted Smith’s misdeeds regarding the real property sale in which he acted as trustee.

“On March 28, 2014, the respondent deposited to his IOLTA account $199,421 of the real estate proceeds and $1,022.69 in rental income due to the family,” Gaziano wrote. “From these proceeds, the respondent paid the client in the first matter the $160,000 that he owed her. The respondent also paid himself two checks in the amounts of $22,450 and $4,760, which he used for his own purposes, including payment of his personal taxes.”

In September 2020, the CSB awarded the mother’s estate $32,026 for the value of her life interest in the property. In October 2022, the board awarded $151,840 to the daughter under the special needs trust. The daughter’s share of the stolen proceeds equated to the value of her remainder interest in the property.

The case was Howie’s first effort representing claimants before the board. But she is quick to credit the CSB members and staff for helping her navigate the process.

“The board is very easy to interact with,” she says. “At the hearings, they ask great questions. They’re very dedicated people in their role of reimbursing clients for losses caused by attorney theft.”

In addition to disbarment, Smith was recently convicted of embezzlement stemming from his actions, according to Howie.

Howie is the 15th recipient of the LeDoux award, last presented in 2018.

The award was established in 1997 to honor the late William J. LeDoux, a member of the CSB from 1987 to 1997, and chair for seven years.

The award is given to a lawyer who, serving pro bono, demonstrates extraordinary skill and perseverance in representing one or more claimants before the board.

A member of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts bars, Howie maintains offices in the Granite State as well as in Andover and Woburn.

For now, Howie takes great satisfaction in the CSB’s award to the special needs trust, which benefits the daughter and her two siblings.

“The funds go a long way in improving the quality of life for these kids,” she says. “The daughter wanted to go to the [Andrea] Bocelli concert in Boston. This money goes to pay for her and a chaperone, because she can’t go alone. What a treat to be able to pay for something like that for her!”

Full Article & Source:
CSB recognizes attorney for undoing disbarred lawyer’s theft

Two Marion County Kentucky Women Sentenced for Elder Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Kentucky

Louisville, KY – Two Marion County women were sentenced yesterday for their roles in an over $500,000 elder fraud scheme. Donna Jean Bradshaw, 57, of Lebanon, Kentucky, was sentenced to 48 months of imprisonment, followed by 48 months of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $582,635. Tammy Lynn Gilbert, 49, of Bradfordsville, Kentucky, was sentenced to 5 years of supervised release, including 12 months of home incarceration, and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution and a $1,000 fine. 

U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett of the Western District of Kentucky and Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen of the FBI Louisville Field Office made the announcement.

According to court documents, between March 2013 and June 2016, Bradshaw, aided by Gilbert, engaged in multiple schemes to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. Bradshaw, with Gilbert’s aid, engaged in various means to defraud an elderly victim of funds, including creating a fictitious United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration mortgage loan reimbursement program and fabricating documents from a Louisville law firm to create the appearance of a fictitious inheritance.

Bradshaw pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and eight counts of wire fraud on January 25, 2023. Gilbert pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and eight counts of wire fraud on June 25, 2020. 

The case was investigated by the FBI Louisville Field Office. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Weiser and Corrine Keel prosecuted the case.

This case was investigated and prosecuted as part of the National Elder Justice Task Force and the Kentucky Elder Justice Task Force. The Department of Justice’s mission of its Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s older adults. In response to the growing need and targeting areas of greatest concern, the Department of Justice initially stood up 10 task forces made up of 11 federal districts to combat a variety of elder abuse, including elder financial exploitation. Kentucky’s federal districts make up two of the 11 districts under the Initiative. Kentucky’s task force is comprised of investigators, prosecutors, and others at the local, state, and federal level with a common objective of protecting seniors across Kentucky.

In October, the Department announced that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice it is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat largest and most harmful fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults. 

To report elder fraud, for non-life-threatening emergencies, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (or 833-372-8311).

Full Article & Source:
Two Marion County Kentucky Women Sentenced for Elder Fraud Scheme

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Plan to expand embattled Office of Public Guardianship on hold

by Marianne Goodland

Plans by the Colorado Office of Public Guardianship — which serves as the guardian of last resort for homeless people and individuals with mental illnesses who don't have anyone else to care for them — to expand statewide are on hold.

The embattled agency faced criticism following the deaths of 20 people — out of its 102 clients — under its care since the pilot program began three years ago. The agency also faced complaints from its its biggest referring partner about the way it operated. 

But the reason why policymakers rejected its expansion plans is money.  

The expansion would have cost the state $1.2 million in general fund dollars and added 10 new full-time equivalent employees, just for the last six months of 2023. By 2025, the state tab would grow to just under $3 million and with the addition of almost 28 new employees. The proposed expansion would have required all judicial districts to set up an OPG office in county courthouses — which the judicial department would pay for — by 2030. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last Friday to hit the pause button, saying the funding just isn't there and hoping that a year from now the money would materialize.

But that's not guaranteed, either.

Budget writers and state revenue forecasts warn of a fiscal cliff headed to the state that could result in tighter budgets in the years to come. 

The Office of Public Guardianship started off as a pilot program in the Denver judicial district under legislation adopted in 2017. But the pilot legislation put no funding into the office, instead relying on gifts, grants and donations, a sign that lawmakers liked the idea but were not immediately willing to fund it.

Two years later, the pilot finally got funding, half from the state and half from the courts through a list of 11 fees, including jury fees. The program was extended in 2021 to include two more judicial districts, with a sunset date for 2023.

That legislation came with a requirement to evaluate the program. That evaluation was conducted by the Office of Public Guardianship, and not by an independent third-party.

The office started taking referrals in April 2020. Between November 2020 and through January 2022, 14 wards died under the office's care. Another six died in 2022. 

The office deals with a population that faces grave socio-economic, and acute care and behavioral health challenges.

Legislation in 2021 showed OPG was still supposed to be funded primarily by court fees through June 30, 2024, with a minimal amount of about $44,000 from the Department of Human Services.

However, Senate Bill 64, this year's legislation for expansion, makes the office 100% taxpayer funded with general fund dollars. The proposal would have extended the office's coverage to all 22 judicial districts.  

Polis promised oversight

Gov. Jared Polis said a year ago he would seek more oversight over the office.

It's not clear how or if the oversight promised by the governor has occurred.

In a statement last November after learning more clients had died, the governor's office said, “These are tragic losses and difficult situations. Public guardianship is an intervention of last resort, generally involving an individual with complex medical needs that lacks decision-making capacity and has no family or friend to act as a power of attorney or guardian." 

The statement noted the governor's budget request for 2023-24 had asked for an additional $1.6 million in funding and that the General Assembly would review those recommendations in the months ahead.

The request also referred to the evaluation the office did of itself.

That review said that, as of September 30, 2022, OPG received 288 referrals, 82 of them from outside of Denver County and therefore not eligible for guardianship services under the office's limited capacity set by law. 

Out of those 206 Denver-based referrals, the office took on 102 guardianships, including the 20 clients who died under its care.

The office has refused requests from Colorado Politics to talk about the cause of death for those individuals, whose age ranged from 47 to 93, or whether there were guardians with more deaths than others.

However, its own review indicated the cause of death for those clients were "consistent" with national statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people aged 65 and older, such as "heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, stroke and dementia."

The self-authored review's conclusion recommended that OPG be established as a permanent, independent agency, with a three-year rollout plan to cover the entire state. It also recommended that OPG establish accountability and oversight "via strong internal and external evaluative systems."

SB 64, the legislation authorizing the expansion, was amended by the Senate to *add a performance audit of the agency, sometime between 2027 and 2030, to be conducted by the state auditor. The bill passed on a 32-3 vote on Monday. 

The report's conclusion noted that participants in a qualitative survey conducted by the office "made it clear that OPG is serving a need to the community that was not there prior to the inception of the office."

"While the OPG is not perfect and still has room for improvement, the impact the OPG has made in three years has gone beyond justifying the cost of the program," the report said.

The report said that all types of participants in the evaluation — client, guardian, family or friend, or affiliate provider — noted the need for the program and the "desire to build on the framework that has been developed over the past three years."

The report added: "Even with large caseloads, OPG has made an impact in Colorado. For some clients, their services have meant life or death, and for others it has meant client’s quality of life was vastly improved as a result of having an OPG guardian advocate on their behalf."

'Insufficient understanding' of care

While lauding OPG's partnership with Denver Health, its biggest referring partner, the report did not mention that Denver Health had been among its fiercest critics in 2021 and 2022.

A hospital representative offered a long list of complaints about OPG's practices and the behavior of its guardians at a public hearing at the state Capitol in January 2022. One guardian was accused of unprofessional behavior with a client that resulted in hospital security removing the guardian from the premises, Denver Health said.

In another complaint in that same hearing, Denver Health noted an OPG client died at the hospital. Denver Health claimed that, despite the client being an OPG ward, the office failed to take custody of the client's body at the hospital, and the hospital had to make funeral arrangements, despite it being a violation of hospital policy.

The report noted that guardianship terminates with the client's death and the guardian will communicate with family to work with the facility or funeral homes. If there is no family, the guardian "may assist the facility social worker or interested friend in contacting the Public Administrator or other agency that may be appropriate to the individual client’s situation."

At the time, OPG said despite the "unavoidable deaths," the office "(serves) a larger role in preventing deaths," through the services guardians provide.

"No Coloradoan should face death alone, unfriended and without representation or advocacy," the office said in the report.

Jackie Zheleznyak, Denver Health's director of government affairs, said at the 2022 public hearing that “Colorado is in desperate need of guardianship services and an office with adequate support and necessary training of those who work there to succeed for our vulnerable populations."

"Unfortunately," Zheleznyak said, "we don’t see this as a state at OPG, which has an insufficient understanding of the different levels of care that exists within the healthcare continuum.”

That included the understanding that hospitals should not be considered temporary housing for OPG clients, Zheleznyak said. 

In response, OPG Director Sophia Alvarez said she wished the hospital had come to her first before going public with its complaints. She also disputed the claims made by Denver Health.

Relationship repaired

OPG has worked to repair that relationship, Zheleznyak told Colorado Politics after the SB 64 hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. 

"We have always known and believed that the state needs some kind of office of public guardianship," Zheleznyak said, adding Denver Health still believes the state needed an office, even "after we raised our issues last year, as critical as we were." 

They have since worked with the governor's office and OPG, and now believes OPG is the "best path forward at this point," she said. 

While the issues Denver Health raised last year were significant, the relationship has gotten stronger between Denver Health and OPG, and OPG has worked on the problems, such as better training and better communication between the office and the hospital, Zheleznyak said.

"It isn't a perfect system and there's still disagreements, but we are both committed to a collaborative relationship. This is a population that needs help and we should do that together," she said. 

The biggest gap remains to be funding, she said, adding the state budget would probably not provide the kind of funding the office needs.

"I truly believe it's not the desire of OPG to do a mediocre job," Zheleznyak said. "It's their desire to be the best advocate they can be, but they're not given the resources to succeed in that way."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include amendment to SB 64 on OPG audits. 

Full Article & Source:
Plan to expand embattled Office of Public Guardianship on hold

Clark County fire battalion chief sentenced for elderly exploitation

Steven Broadwell (Henderson Police Department)

By Michael Bell

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A battalion chief for the Clark County Fire Department has pleaded guilty and was sentenced for exploiting an older or vulnerable person, according to court records.

Steven Broadwell, 52, was taken into custody and booked into the Henderson Detention Center earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Broadwell was sentenced to 30 days in jail and given credit for time served of 30 days. He was fined a total of $178 in administrative fees.

“He has been a battalion chief since Sep. 8, 2018. As one of 13 battalion chiefs, he is responsible for a portion of the eastern Las Vegas Valley, generally east of Maryland Parkway,” a source from Clark County Fire said in January.

Clark County said Broadwell is currently on unpaid leave.

Full Article & Source:
Clark County fire battalion chief sentenced for elderly exploitation

Ben Hill Co. couple charged in aunt’s elderly exploitation case

Ben Hill Co. couple charged in aunt's elderly exploitation case

By Alicia Lewis

FITZGERALD, Ga. (WALB) - A couple is facing over 375 warrants on bank fraud and exploitation of the elderly in Fitzgerald.

Herbert Johnson and his girlfriend, Cornisha Wilcox, are accused of taking advantage of Johnson’s elderly aunt, who is diagnosed with dementia. Reports also accuse them of stealing cash and making several attempts to withdraw large amounts of money from the aunt’s account.

The pair is accused of linking their online banks to the victim’s account and taking over $17,000 in cash and online transfers over the past few months. Pam Gonzales, daughter of the victim, says she trusted her cousin to look after her mother while she was away in Florida for work.

“I just felt like I was put on the spot to where he groomed her and also groomed me to make it to where I wasn’t aware of what was going on” Gonzales said.

Full Article & Source:
Ben Hill Co. couple charged in aunt’s elderly exploitation case

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Billionaire Chace’s Will Was Changed in Final Days of His Life — He Was “Completely Incapacitated”

Liz Chace and Malcolm Chace
prior to the litigation at a Wolf
School dedication.
In the next few months, one of the biggest legal battles in Rhode Island history is expected to head to trial.

The players are in a high-stakes fight over the control of one of the trusts of the late Rhode Island billionaire Malcolm “Kim” Chace, the man whose family had direct involvement with the establishment of the famed investment fund Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Just days before Chace died in 2011, two lawyers from a prominent Rhode Island law firm traveled to Florida and executed a “second” codicil to his will — an amendment — that made significant changes worth tens of millions of dollars including impacting the control of millions of dollars of art and increasing the annual payment to Kim Chace’s second wife Liz from $400,000 to $800,000 a year.

Just one problem, at the time of the lawyers' visit, Kim Chace was hospitalized, and according to family members and attorneys for his son Malcolm Chace, Kim was “completely incapacitated" and non-communicative.

Who exactly were these lawyers representing is one of the lingering questions now playing out in courtrooms in Florida and Rhode Island. And, how did the non-communicative Kim Chace seek these substantial changes to the distribution of his fortune? The "second" codicil substantially benefitted Liz Chace.

This battle over the codicil is just one component of the legal dispute between members of the Chace family. GoLocal was first to report on the different factions and the litigation in April of 2022.

Buff Chace is locked in litigation with Malcolm Chace in RI
Rhode Island Litigation Expected to Go to Trail This Year

On one side are Kim Chace’s children, their spouses, and grandchildren. Leading the effort is Kim Chace's son Malcolm Chace, who heads the investment firm Canton Hathaway in Providence. His business partners include Jim Procaccianti, President and CEO of Procaccianti Companies — “a firm that claims more than $10 Billion of diversified real estate investments in more than 130 cities across 31 states coast to coast.”

The Malcolm Chace faction has sued cousin Arnold “Buff” Chace and William Saltonstall [Kim Chace’s stepson and Malcolm Chace’s step-brother] individually as well the trust managing the money — M2K Trust. Liz Chace is also named in the suit.

The plaintiffs in the mega suit in Providence Superior Court— Malcolm Chace's group — allege that Buff Chace and Saltonstall violated the tenet of the trust by investing funds into Buff Chace’s real estate projects — they claim that this was specifically barred by the terms of the trust. The Rhode Island litigation is expected to start in 2023.

Legal Battle Over "Second" Codicil in Court in Florida

The dispute over the change to the will pits Malcolm Chace’s faction primarily against his stepmother Liz Chace.  She married Kim Chace on February 8 of 1975, according to a wedding announcement in the New York Times.

Lawyers for Malcolm Chase’s group, both in Rhode Island and in Florida, say the will was changed days after he was incapacitated after surgery and was left non-communicative.

A first codicil of the will was executed in 1990, which provided for Liz Chace to receive an annual payment of $400,000 from the trust upon Kim Chace’s death, and provided for an art collection worth tens of millions to remain with Liz Chace during her lifetime and then revert back to Kim Chace’s children — the Malcom Chace group.

But the so-called second codicil changed key provisions. It doubled her annual payments from $400,000 to $800,000 annually and changed the provisions regarding the art collection — to Liz Chace's benefit.

“During my wife's lifetime if she survives me, the trustee shall pay to my wife from the net income of such trust the sum of Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars ($800,000) annually provided, however, that (i) to the extent such income is insufficient to make such payment, the trustee shall use principal for such purpose, and (ii) such amount shall be prorated in the year of my death,” states the second codicil.

The changes made in the final days have raised concerns of Malcolm Chace's attorneys.

"It causes tremendous concern that a codicil appeared last minute changing the wishes of Mr. Chace days before his death.  There is strong evidence Mr. Chace was completely incapacitated at the time of the alleged codicil.  It is impossible for a client to have testamentary capacity to make important choices regarding their estate plan while incapacitated,”  said Florida-based Marianne Moran, Attorney for the beneficiaries of the Malcolm G. Chace Declaration of Trust.

Robert Corrente, who is representing Malcolm Chace in the Rhode Island litigation, told GoLocal in a phone interview, "There is additional and related litigation in Florida…there is a relatedness to the whole thing as the changes they made were significant as to what they did and what they affected as it relates to dollars and cents. And the change to the second codicil was executed every very close to [Kim Chace’s] death. There were substantial questions about his medical condition."

Corrente is the former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island.

Painting Worth Millions

The paintings in question, according to the "second "codicil, are:

"Bow of a Beam Trawler" by Edward Hopper

"Glass of Water" by Eastman Johnson

"Fulton Fish Market'' by George Luks

"Landscape #1" by Charles Sheeler

"Cosmetic Counter" by Wayne Thiebaud

According to the parties, the paintings are worth millions, with the most valuable by Hopper.

That piece of art may be worth as much as $10 million. The record for a Hopper, according to the New York Times, is in excess of $91 million. "He is America’s most celebrated painter of the solitary realities of 20th century life. But Tuesday night at Christie’s, Edward Hopper joined the unreality of today’s art market when his 1929 painting 'Chop Suey' sold for $91.9 million, with fees, an auction high for the artist."

Signed While Noncommunicative

The two lawyers who executed the second codicil were prominent attorneys at Hinckley Allen & Snyder LLP — Robert Petix, Jr. and Doris Licht.

Licht is a partner with the firm and refused to answer questions about her role in the execution of the second codicil.

She also refused to say who her client was.

“You know I am not going to be able to say anything,” said Licht in an interview with GoLocal. 

Doris Licht, Partner at Hinckley Allen
Petix, who signed the second codicil on behalf of Kim Chace while he was allegedly incapacitated. is no longer with Hinckley Allen and is no longer a practicing attorney. 

GoLocal reached Petix in his new home Austin, Texas, and he said he was unaware of the lawsuit and the disputes.

Petix, when reached by phone, said that he had to check with legal counsel at his former firm Hinckley Allen before he could comment.

Petix and Licht’s roles are now the subject of legal action in Florida. And according to court documents, Malcolm Chace’s Florida attorney Moran will have the opportunity to depose both Licht and Petix.

A spokesperson for Liz Chace, Bill Fischer, told GoLocal in an email, “The two Hinckley Allen attorneys you reference served as Kim’s estate planning attorneys. The second codicil was made at Kim’s request. I cannot speak to the motivation of this codicil nor do I represent Hinckley Allen in this matter. All I can tell you is this codicil did not originate as a request from Liz.”

When GoLocal informed Fischer that Malcolm Chace's family and attorneys told GoLocal that at the time of the execution of the second codicil, he was reportedly incapacitated and uncommunicative, thus how did he request this change -- Fischer declined to comment.

Full Article & Source:
Billionaire Chace’s Will Was Changed in Final Days of His Life — He Was “Completely Incapacitated”

Former lawyer from SC pleads guilty to bilking veterans, retirees in $31M fraud scheme

By Phillip Walter Wellman

Candy Kern, a former attorney from Anderson, S.C., pleaded guilty to federal charges in a $31 million fraud that took advantage of veterans and the elderly, the Justice Department said April19, 2023. (LinkedIn)

A South Carolina attorney who used her law firm to orchestrate a $31 million fraud scheme targeting veterans and the elderly faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty this week to conspiracy.

Candy Kern, 55, carried out a nationwide scam from 2012 to 2021 that took advantage of cash-strapped veterans and clients who were seeking a secure retirement investment, the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday, the same day as the plea agreement.

The scheme offered veterans cash in exchange for temporary rights to their pensions and disability payments, usually until their loans were repaid with interest.

Kern was the managing partner at the law firm and “served as the banker, legal counsel, and debt collector” in the scheme, which bilked victims out of $31.4 million, according to the DOJ.

Despite knowing that the contracts were illegal, Kern and her associates persuaded retirees to fork over the money lent to the veterans, saying the payments would eventually yield returns, the Justice Department statement said.

She filed lawsuits against those who defaulted, even though the contracts were void.

Over time, some veterans realized that the pension assignments were illegal and stopped paying, according to the statement.

This led to the collapse of the scheme after more than eight years. Kern and an undisclosed number of associates pocketed over $1.4 million, the DOJ said.

“This elaborate scheme preyed upon and exploited some of our most vulnerable populations, and when it collapsed, it left thousands of veterans in financial ruin and scores of retiree-investors without adequate resources to retire,” Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s civil division, was quoted in the statement as saying. 

Kern surrendered her law license in 2021. As part of her plea deal, she agreed to help prosecutors in their ongoing investigation.

“It is reprehensible that a former member of the South Carolina state bar would participate in such a scheme and use her standing as a lawyer to give victims a false confidence,” Adair Boroughs, the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, said in the statement.

The date of Kern’s sentencing was not provided in the statement. Besides prison time, she also faces a $250,000 fine.

Full Article & Source:
Former lawyer from SC pleads guilty to bilking veterans, retirees in $31M fraud scheme

All vulnerable New Mexicans must be protected

By Iolene Brown, Jorja Armijo-brasher, Karen Duprey, David Heeter, Lorraine Mendiola, Marji Messer, Emily Darnell Nunez And Reina Romero / Members, N.M. Family Guardianship Conservatorship Coalition 

The New Mexico Family Guardianship Conservatorship Coalition is extremely pleased Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has taken swift and decisive action regarding the recent incidents of abuse of developmentally disabled adults under the state’s DD Waiver.

The governor stated in her March 20 press release “if you are in a position of caring for a developmentally disabled adult and you abuse that responsibility, take note, because we are coming for you. We are using every tool at our disposal to protect these vulnerable individuals and to make sure that incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation do not happen ever again in our state.”

We implore Lujan Grisham to take action to investigate and address predatory guardians, conservators, guardian ad litems, attorneys and judges who violate an individual’s human, civil and financial rights. Incidents of neglect and exploitation are occurring in court-appointed guardianships with elderly and disabled individuals. These populations are already susceptible to exploitation because of their vulnerability and the subsequent isolation after a court-ordered guardianship is put in place. All New Mexicans deserve to be protected from abusive perpetrators.

The Department of Health rewrote its Rules and Regulations Policy to include boarding homes to be licensed and monitored by this agency; however, we found out through an IPRA request only three boarding homes in the entire state have been licensed by DOH. What happens to those individuals who are living in unlicensed boarding homes? Who is protecting these individuals who may live in horrific conditions such as bed-bug infestations, lack of nourishing food or being physically or sexually assaulted?

In some cases the guardian uses their power to keep families and friends away from the protected person. The nursing home rules state they welcome and encourage visits, but a bad guardian can make the situation very difficult.

How are elderly individuals being treated in nursing homes? Do they have any type of activity to stimulate their body and brain? Do they have the opportunity to socialize with other residents, family and friends? Or are they being drugged so they are easier to manage and compliant with staff?

These are horrible incidents to discuss, however, they are happening daily to too many vulnerable New Mexicans. Everyone will experience getting older; it’s a fact of life. Mental illness is not a character flaw; it’s a disease. Developmentally disabled people exist. All people deserve to be treated with respect, empathy and a sense of protection. Families are critical partners in the lives of the most vulnerable, however, the guardianship system rarely allows families to be involved.

It’s time for all three branches of government – the executive in Gov. Lujan Grisham, the legislative in the N.M. Legislature and the judiciary in our courts – to work together to ensure all vulnerable New Mexicans retain their human and civil rights along with their financial status. Accountability and oversight could provide preventative measures by all state agencies involved with guardianships. The state of New Mexico could also begin by exposing current guardianship practices that disregard the individual’s documented wishes; promote isolation from families, friends and their established communities; and squander resources when the individual and family members are at their most vulnerable.

The N.M. Family Guardianship Conservatorship Coalition is willing to work with Gov. Lujan Grisham and any state agency on this important issue to ensure all vulnerable New Mexicans receive the needed services and protection from corrupt and exploitative predators. In the words of Ghandi “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

Full Article & Source:
All vulnerable New Mexicans must be protected

Monday, April 24, 2023

Guardianship reform being considered in Michigan legislature

Jehan Crump-Gibson, managing partner of the Great Lakes Legal Group, explains the importance of understanding who is overseeing finances within a family and the need for reform for guardianship rules in Michigan

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship reform being considered in Michigan legislature

Here’s why 8 Florida nursing home violations were not in state records

Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, the only nursing home in the popular Panhandle beach town, had four serious violations last year. But until recently, details about them were difficult to find. [ Google Maps ]

By Hannah Critchfield

The Florida nursing home’s final inspection report painted a grim picture.

More than 100 residents were rushed out of Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and shuttled to nearby nursing homes after state inspectors found “grossly inadequate” staffing at the Panhandle facility.

A nurse wept when he discovered that a woman with dementia had been left alone for so long that a plant grew in the crook of her arm, sprouting two leaves and roots.

Another resident was found with two fentanyl patches on their arm, exposing them to possible overdose.

A third had a wound dressing that hadn’t been changed in nearly 20 days.

Until earlier this month, the May 6 inspection report detailing these violations was absent from state records that help the public vet nursing homes.

The Tampa Bay Times found that eight of 83 serious violations in Florida nursing homes last year were missing from the state website that publishes inspections.

The website promises a “complete list of inspections” and is run by the regulator of the state’s long-term care facilities, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. While the agency isn’t legally required to publish nursing home inspections under state or federal law, it refers consumers to these findings, agency documents show, to help them select a nursing home.

The agency posted the missing reports to its website the day after a Times reporter asked about them.

Spokesperson Bailey Smith said that the omission was caused by a “technological glitch,” and that agency employees followed normal protocol in reporting and uploading these inspections.

But nursing home advocates and families of residents say the missing inspections exact a steep toll: When consumers need to choose a nursing home quickly, they often struggle to find information about a facility’s prior history of care.

“When we have to make determinations about life and death … we should have the best tools possible,” said Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for nursing home residents’ rights.

Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center shut down in May 2022. A year later, the beach town’s only nursing home has been transferred to a new owner, though its licensure is still pending.

The owner at the time of its shutdown, 195 Mattie M. Kelly Boulevard Operations LLC, as well as its management company, Independence Living Centers, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Nor did representatives for the new owner that applied to run the facility, Destin Senior Care LLC, or its management company, VIP Senior Living Solutions LLC.

Starting this week, the nursing home is able to admit new residents.

Missing reports

Violations at other Florida nursing homes were missing from the state’s inspection data until April 4, the day after the Times notified the agency about the website’s missing reports.

Among those was one in January 2022: Inspectors found that nursing home staff at a Fort Walton Beach facility asked police to remove a resident with dementia from the property without notifying them of his condition, leading him to wander the streets alone for almost an hour.

Another missing inspection, from February 2022, detailed how a resident ran away from a Pensacola nursing home. A second resident escaped out of the same door a month later, it said.

At a nearby Pensacola facility that April, a partially paralyzed resident who needed supervision while smoking was left alone with a cigarette between his lips. It fell onto his neck pillow, where embers began to burn before an inspector brushed them off. This report was also missing online.

Most of these inspections were still posted on Care Compare, a federal website established in 2008 that shows how nursing homes rank on inspections, staffing and quality of care.

Destin Healthcare’s four serious violations, which were detailed in two inspections from last April and May, were not.

When a nursing home fails to meet basic health and safety requirements, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services may pull its federal funding. The move is generally considered a “last resort,” made only when “all other attempts to remedy the deficiencies at a facility have been exhausted.”

When that happens, its profile disappears from Care Compare.

Destin Healthcare’s federal funding was revoked in May 2022, shortly after it was cited for serious violations detailed in the missing inspection reports.

A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes and runs Care Compare, said the agency doesn’t receive or post information about places that no longer get federal funding.

Inspections for these nursing homes can still be found in archived data and on its Quality Certification and Oversight Reports database, a website often used by researchers and providers.

But a consumer must know how to dig for this information, advocates say.

“I can’t imagine most family members doing that,” Mollot said. “Most people don’t have a lot of time (to select a nursing home) and are not looking at this with any kind of background — and they shouldn’t have to be.”

The Agency for Health Care Administration’s website periodically posted information about these serious violations in other types of filings.

Destin Healthcare’s April violations, for example, were mentioned in a 17-page emergency order.

The nursing home’s administrator and the attorney representing its former owner settled with the state in December, agreeing to pay $114,000 and transfer the facility to a different owner.

Details of the May 6 violation became available in settlement filings at that time, but remained missing from the facility’s “Inspection Reports” page.

According to that database, Destin Healthcare had not had a violation since 2021.

Inspections given to federal government

Agency for Health Care Administration staff didn’t identify any missing inspection reports beyond those that the Times found, Smith said.

The state agency doesn’t have to make these reports public, she said, and inspections can usually be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ website.

Even though it hadn’t posted the inspections online, the Agency for Health Care Administration provided all of them to the federal government in a timely manner, Smith said.

It’s unclear exactly when Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center will officially reopen. But as of Monday, the new owner could start admitting residents while its licensure application is pending, according to Smith.

The facility is actively hiring care and administrative staff, according to online job postings.

Earlier this month, the new owner applied to change the facility’s name to “Destination Health and Rehabilitation Center,” according to Smith. It has not yet been approved.

The change of ownership application, which the Times obtained through a records request, suggests the nursing home aims to eventually reenter the Medicare & Medicaid program, which will require the facility to show it can comply with federal regulations.

The federal agency did not comment on the status of this reinstatement process.

Full Article & Source:
Here’s why 8 Florida nursing home violations were not in state records