Alzheimer Home Fined For Sex Assaults

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (AP) - An assisted living home that cares for people with Alzheimer's disease agreed to a $10,000 penalty and state monitoring for six months after six female residents were sexually assaulted by a male resident.

Alterra Clare Bridge Cottage, located in New Philadelphia 40 miles south of Akron, reached a settlement Tuesday with the Ohio Department of Health to keep its residential-care-facility license.

"We consider this significant because we rarely fine residential-care facilities," said Jay Carey, a health department spokesman.

Critics say the agreement and the temporary improvements it requires underscore the need for better oversight of the state's assisted living homes.

"For $10,000, they get away with it, and the fox is still watching the hen house," said Kathy Recco, who alerted police to abuse at the home. Her mother lived there almost two years.

The owners agreed that over next six months, employees will report allegations of abuse or neglect within 48 hours to the residential director and her supervisor.

Also, a company "health care specialist" will visit Alterra at least every other week for the next six months to monitor resident services and verify that any reports of abuse have been dealt with.

Failure to comply can result in revocation of the facility's state operating license.

The agreement and penalty does not mean Alterra agrees with the health department, according to the settlement. A company spokeswoman declined comment.

In January, several of the center's employees told the health department's inspectors that residents at Alterra had been raped by another resident over several weeks. Employees said they were told not to report the attacks.

New Philadelphia Police Chief Jeff Urban said his investigation is continuing into the sexual assaults, which he said occurred between September 2001 and January 2002.

Robert Soles, a lawyer for Marilyn Keffer, who said her mother was sexually assaulted at Alterra, said he was disappointed by the settlement. Keffer and a family of another victim are suing the facility for $25 million.

Sam McCoy, director of the Elder Rights Division at the Area Agency on Agency in Summit County, said the extra measures the company agreed to should be permanent and applied to all facilities that care for frail, memory-impaired residents.

The health department doesn't have the power to require the improvements statewide, Carey said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)