Charges filed against St. Charles Community Home
The owners of a group home in Destrehan, which houses boys with mental disabilities and behavior problems, have been charged with abuse by the state.
St. Charles Community Home, located on 336 River Oaks Drive, has been forced to make corrections by the state if they want to remain open.
Lauren Mendes, public information officer for the department of health and human services, confirms that sexual abuse, physical abuse and insufficient staffing allegations were all validated by the state. DHH ordered the facility to implement a plan to improve the situation.
“St. Charles Community home in Destrehan had four complaints on record between 2003 and 2007,” Mendes said. “We found that two of the complaints were valid, including a case where a patient was a victim of sexual abuse by another patient. Another incident of physical abuse from one patient to another also occurred in 2006, along with an issue of insufficient staffing to properly maintain the group home.”
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Offices confirmed that they received at least five complaints about the facility during that same time frame and all of those complaints were reported to the state for further investigation.
Progressive Health Care Providers, the corporate company that owns the facility, is in Tennessee, but a spokesman from the company said there is a local management division in Baton Rouge in charge of maintaining the Destrehan facility. However, that office repeatedly refused to comment about the abuse allegations and what they did to rectify the situation.
Jane Bienemey, a former employee of the group home, says she was shocked and amazed at the verbal abuse the boys endured at the facility.
“I watched how staff members mistreated the boys,” she said. “I never saw any kind of physical abuse, but I did witness a lot of verbal abuse. The patients were cursed out often.”
Bienemy says the facility was often short staffed. She was fired around Christmas when she refused to work another shift at a different home the company owns in New Orleans.
“They were short staffed at the New Orleans location, and I had just gotten off my shift in Destrehan when I received a call from the management office and I was told to go work another shift at the New Orleans group home,” she said.
Bienemy says when she refused, explaining to the main office that she had just ended a shift, she was fired on the spot.
“I know there was often a shortage of food in the home and the boys had gotten accustomed to me,” she said. “I would tell social workers who visited the facility about the problems I witnessed when I was there.”
Bienemy says she had never seen adults handle children in such a rude and heartless manner before.
Mendes says that parents are not informed about complaints, but they can inquire about complaints through a public records request with the DHH office, before permitting their children or a family member to enter into a facility.
“The decision to close down a facility is not made based on the number of complaints received, but rather on a facility’s inability to correct deficiencies,” she said. “A facility can remain open as long as they are proactive about staying in compliance.”
Mendes says it would take a history of noncompliance for DHH to begin looking seriously at taking steps to revoke a license, forcing a facility to be shut down.