NY Times describes “patterns of abuse” at Sunmount in Tupper Lake

New York Times reporter Danny Hakim published a major investigative piece today looking at the quality of care in large developmental disability care facilities across New York state.

Despite large budgets, Hakim suggests, the quality of care is often shoddy, neglectful or dangerous.  The Sunmount facility in Tupper Lake is one focus of his report, and receives significant criticism:

Patterns of abuse appear embedded in the culture of the Sunmount Developmental Center in the Adirondacks.

Last year, one supervisor was accused of four different episodes of physical and psychological abuse of residents within a span of two and a half months; another employee bragged on Facebook about “beating retards.”

Hakim cites specific cases at Sunmount that sparked investigations and scrutiny:

Around the same time, one Sunmount resident, Eddie Adkins, was set upon by several staff members after he grew upset that he was not allowed to go to the bathroom, according to an internal report provided to The Times by Mr. Adkins’s family…

A deaf resident told state investigators that he saw four state employees punching Mr. Adkins while he was sitting on a couch — “I did not like that,” he told investigators, adding that he was so disturbed that he turned his hearing aid off during the melee.

According to the article, an agency spokeswoman declined to comment on specific cases, but five staff member were placed on administrative leave following the incident.

Hakim’s article appears at a time when Tupper Lakers are deeply concerned about the future of Sunmount, a mainstay of local employment.

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the facility in November of last year and in response to the state’s fiscal crisis told Sunmount workers “If I was a state worker and just a resident of the state, I would be afraid of what is coming ahead.”

7 Comments on “NY Times describes “patterns of abuse” at Sunmount in Tupper Lake”

  1. Mervel says:

    Kind of makes it hard to rally for the facility.

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  2. scratchy says:

    Very sad.
    People are going to hate this, but it seems a big part of the problem is no accountability in the state workforce, a side effect of a powerful public union culture. It’ll be tough to truly change state agencies with unions in the way. Overall, hats off to the NYT for this informative report. An example of real journalism.

    “Upset that her concerns were not sent to law enforcement, she confronted two of the agency’s top officials and secretly recorded the encounter, in which they sought to play down what she saw. After state officials learned of the existence of the tape, which Ms. Maioriello gave to The Times, the two officials were reassigned”

    “Some workers were hardly fit for duty. One had a history of showing up intoxicated, according to depositions in a civil case brought by the Carey family against the state, but he was kept on the job until he was once so drunk at work that he was sent to a hospital. He was later made a groundskeeper. “

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  3. Mervel says:

    I know. I mean when you read that kind of thing how can anyone not be for closing these sorts of facilities? These vulnerable people with no one to defend them being treated this way, as if they are not really human, I mean it seems to me that the patients and families of patients at sunmount are the ones who need a union.

    (I would suspect though that administration is just as much or more to blame than the union) .

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  4. starman says:

    The current population of the Sunmount facility is made up of arsonists, pedophiles, arsonists, etc who function too low to live in the prison setting. As such, each accusation they make must be investigated, and many will make wild accusations as there are no consequences for their actions. These accusations are driving the institution.

    The “traditional” mentally retarded person has long left Sunmount and lives in Family Care or in one of the group homes scattered across the north country.

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  5. Bret4207 says:

    IMO we need these facilities. The homeless population ballooned after Cuomo stated shutting down our mental facilities. But we also need safe and humane facilities. If the union is protecting criminal activity, then the union should be charged criminally, simple as that.

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  6. Mervel says:

    You can’t blame the union for everything. The union is not responsible for the operation nor is it responsible for the quality of care, those are management responsibilities. If the union is trying to protect abusive, alcoholic or incompetent staff than the administration has to stand up and take them on.

    My feeling is that this is a management issue; that the entire system may be corrupted from the top down.

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  7. jen casella says:

    Starman, you are waaaay behind the times, the R word is OUT and mentally challenged is in!!!!
    and if you work at sunmount? then you know better.

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