Outbreak of STDs leads to closing
BY SONYA COLBERG NewsOK.com
Monday, February 22, 2010
2/22/10 at 1:05 PM
An outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases, mental anguish and a rape allegation led to the shutdown of a string of New Frontiers cottages in the Oklahoma City area.
"We had a systemic breakdown throughout these cottages," said Dorya Huser, the state Health Department's chief of protective health services for long-term. "We had some serious concerns."
Floyd Propps, an Edmond attorney, was hired to try to keep New Frontiers open. He considered them nice homes, built in the early 2000s, with good programs in a good part of town. The cottages held about 60 residents and were owned by Don Moore of Texas. Propps said there were nine cottages.
Such facilities, called Intermediate Care Facilities for People with Mental Retardation, typically are inspected only once a year plus an occasional revisit or visit initiated by a complaint. But Huser said inspectors visited New Frontiers more than 60 times in about a year.
"Each time we seemed to find more problems," she said.
Propps said that with each visit in 2006 through 2007, inspectors found problems that had existed previously.
"I remember it being so frustrating. Anything we tried to do didn't seem to work," he said. "I think there was an immense amount of friction between the administration there and the Health Department."
- Six patients from four cottages were potentially exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.
- Three patients tested positive for herpes simplex, and test results were missing for a fourth patient.
- Inspectors cited failure to protect patients from sexual exploitation and consequently transmitting sexually transmitted diseases.
The Health Department inspectors "were saying the facilities were not talking enough about sex, you're not talking enough about STDs, not monitoring the situation. Well, let me talk to you about your sex life. It's very difficult," Propps said.
Inspectors found that patients suffered mental anguish from frequent witnessing of inappropriate sexual behavior. Included was an alleged rape of a female client by a male client on July 22, 2007, at New Frontiers Aspen in Oklahoma City.
Inspection records say the incident was reported to police, the client was examined and a rape kit used. Staff members reported a one-day, one-on-one supervision of the male client but couldn't provide documentation.
Police records did not show a rape report from the address.
There also was an inspection report in March 2007 of a patient masturbating in the lobby of New Frontiers Cimarron in Bethany and then hitting the wall with his fist when a nurse tried to redirect him.
Mary Fleming, the Health Department's director of long-term care surveys, said homes should provide sex education, access to birth control and protection for sexually active clients.
"There was a lot of education. There was a lot of follow-up when it was learned certain people had a sexually transmitted disease," she said.
Finally, state officials refused to recommend recertification for the cottages to receive Medicaid reimbursement. The cottages all closed by 2007 and the patients were relocated.
A resident sits in the sunlight in the gymnasium at the Center of Family Love, a group home for the mentally disabled in Okarche. Jim Beckel / The Oklahoman