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Matthew's Law & Bancroft School
"He died mentally for two years before he died physically.
Every ounce of dignity was taken away from him."
After Teen's Death, Districts Thinking
Twice About Sending Children Out Of State
He died of pneumonia, respiratory distress and blood poisoning the next day -- just one month before his 15th birthday.
Matthew, who had autism, was placed six years ago in Bancroft, an institution housing 60 children with "severe behavior disorders". Two years ago he was made to wear stiff arm restraints designed to keep him from hurting himself.
Matthew's mother, Janice Roach, believes the residential school's use of restraints and sedation weakened her son's immune system and led directly to his death.
"He died mentally for two years before he died physically. Every ounce of dignity was taken away from him," Roach told the Intelligencer.
Now Bancroft School is under scrutiny by authorities in New Jersey because of Matthew's death and other complaints. Last month the New Jersey Department of Human Services announced it would not allow children to be placed at Bancroft, after staff took 10 minutes to evacuate the facility during an unannounced fire drill.
The facility is also being scrutinized by Central Bucks School District in Pennsylvania, which last year paid Bancroft $454,000 to house Matthew and another child. Districts in Bucks and nearby Montgomery counties are looking at the feasibility of moving any children to programs outside the state rather than serving their needs closer to home.
More details are available in this Intelligencer article:
Facility Charged With Largest Fine Ever,
Department officials said Monday that this was the largest fine ever assessed against a long-term care facility.
Bancroft is a 66-bed facility housing people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.
The violations included two cases of physical abuse and three cases of sexual abuse. Officials said Bancroft staff failed to properly administer medications, to call for emergency medical personnel in a medical emergency and to report allegations of abuse and neglect. The state also claimed staff members were poorly trained, that some did not even have licenses to practice in the state, and failed to follow treatment plans, or to provide residents with nutritious food.
"The violations are very serious and they are quite numerous," Human Services spokeswoman Pam Ronan said.
Ronan added that many of the problems were documented in Bancroft's files, but had not been reported to the state as required by law.
The health department will hold a hearing on August 1. Bancroft spokesman Paul Healy said the facility will makes its case at that time.
Camden County prosecutors are investigating the death of 14-year-old Matthew Goodman, a resident of Bancroft that had autism. Goodman, who was from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, died February 6 from pneumonia, respiratory distress and blood poisoning.
Last month the Department of Human Services announced it would not allow children to be placed at Bancroft, after staff took 10 minutes to evacuate the facility during an unannounced fire drill.
Treatment Of Teenager Ruled
The resident, Matthew Goodman, a 14-year-old from Bucks County, Pa., died in February while in Bancroft's care.
His death is under investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor's
Office, a spokesman said Tuesday.
A former staff member at Bancroft NeuroHealth in Haddonfield pleaded guilty Monday to one count of abusing and neglecting a teenager in the facility's care.
Kelly Storms, 20, of Mullica Hill Road in Mullica Hill, admitted she used her body to pin down a 14-year-old autistic boy and put her hands around his throat, said Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Donna Spinosi. The abuse occurred Jan. 19, and Bancroft subsequently fired Storms.
A plea agreement between Spinosi and defense attorney Richard Friedman includes a recommended sentence of two years' probation. She'd also be barred from working with children while on probation, under the agreement. Superior Court Presiding Criminal Judge Linda G. Baxter scheduled Storms' sentencing for Oct. 18.
Teen's Death Prompts New Restraint And
Assemblyman Eric Munoz, M.D., announced last week that he will push for the restraint law, to be known as "Matthew's Law" for a 14-year-old with autism who died earlier this year.
On February 5, Matthew Goodman was rushed to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia from The Lindens, a Bancroft School in Haddonfield, New Jersey. The next day Matthew died of pneumonia, respiratory distress and blood poisoning. The facility is under scrutiny by New Jersey authorities because of Matthew's death and unrelated complaints.
Munoz explained that under Matthew's Law people in state-funded facilities could only be restrained or secluded as a last resort. The person's parents or guardians would need to approve the techniques, which could only be applied to the person for one hour at a time. Also, professionals would have to develop less restrictive alternatives for the person.
"We have learned that Matthew was placed in restraints to control his behavior. But these restraints were not just placed on his head and arms during the daytime; he also slept with them on. In addition, his mother repeatedly found him asleep on the floor, sleep caused by Matthew being overmedicated. This standard practice of using medication as a restraint must cease in New Jersey," said Assemblyman Munoz.
Matthew's mother, Janice Roach, believes the institution's use of restraint and sedation weakened her son's immune system and led directly to his death.
The state sent a letter to Roach last month, detailing how Bancroft staff failed to remove restraints and a helmet while Matthew slept; how one staff member held the teen in a restaint while dragging him to a restroom; how another staff member rested her foot on Matthew's chest for a few seconds; and how Matthew was often left unattended.
"I commend Assemblyman Munoz for bringing this issue to the light of day and thank him and his excellent staff for proposing Matthew's Law," Roach said.
Matthew was placed six years ago in the Bancroft institution which housed 60 children with "severe behavior disorders". Two years ago he was made to wear stiff arm restraints designed to keep him from hurting himself. Visitors to the facility said they often saw the teen restrained or on strong medications designed to control his behavior.
A vigil will be held at the statehouse in Trenton on the morning of October 7, the day Munoz is to introduce the measure to the Legislature.
The national disability organization TASH is asking those who are committed to eliminating the "inappropriate and dangerous use of restraints" to join local advocates in supporting the measure.
"A show of support is needed!" wrote TASH executive director Nancy R. Weiss in a statement.
Bancroft Given Two Week Notice
Bancroft provides services to over 1,000 people with developmental and other disabilities in five states, including New Jersey.
Earlier this year the state of New Jersey fined Bancroft $127,000 -- the largest amount the state has ever charged against a long-term care facility. Bancroft was cited because it violated residents' rights, put their mental and physical health at risk, failed to report dozens of incidents involving abuse or neglect, and failed to contact medical personnel during a medical emergency.
Even though the facility has received direct assistance from the state Department of Human Services, it continues to be out of compliance with regulations, officials said.
Bancroft has until January 2 to fully comply. If it does not, the state will file an application for receivership with the New Jersey Superior Court, which could appoint an independent party to run the facility.
Meanwhile, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office is still investigating the February 6 death of Bancroft resident Matthew Goodman. Fourteen-year-old Matthew, who had autism, died of pneumonia, respiratory distress and blood poisoning. Investigators later learned that he had been over-medicated and improperly restrained while at The Lindens, a Bancroft facility for youths with "severe behavior problems".
His death and the restraint-related deaths of others who have died while in New Jersey institutions have prompted lawmakers to introduce two measures -- one dubbed "Matthew's Law" -- that would regulate the use of physical and mechanical restraints. A public hearing on those proposed laws is set for January 16 at the state capital.
More details are available from the Courier Post:
"Matthew's Law" Rejected For Compromise
The measure allows restraints as part of a planned intervention, and only with approval by a parent, a doctor and a county-based human rights committee. The restraints would be limited to one hour and a physician would have to examine the person within 24 hours.
"Matthew's Law", a tougher bill that would have banned the use of restraints, was rejected by the committees after a number of parents testified that such procedures benefited their children.
That bill was named for Matthew Goodman, a 14-year-old with autism, who died last February after being restrained several days in a New Jersey institution for children with "severe behavior disorders". The state Division of Developmental Disabilities determined that Matthew was abused by a regimen of arm restraints that left him immobile most of his day and at night. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office has found no evidence that the staff intentionally harmed Matthew.
Matthew's mother, Janice Roach, testified with his father, Carl Goodman, sitting beside her.
"In our opinion Matthew faced 16 months of torture through the increasing use of restraints," Roach said.
One lawmaker tried to appease Matthew's parents by offering to call the compromise bill "Matthew's Law", because of the advocacy work done by Roach.
After the compromise bill was passed, a clearly disappointed Janice Roach said, "I'm hoping our efforts have and will continue to teach New Jersey a lesson on how restraints are not treatment, and that the lesson will continue to spread across the nation."
More hearings are to come to discuss treatment for people with mental retardation in state-run and state-licensed facilities.
Advocates Vow To Continue Push For
Last Thursday, a state Senate and General Assembly committee was to hold public hearings on "Matthew's Law Limiting The Use of Restraints", otherwise known as Assembly Bill No. 2855, which Assemblymen Eric Munoz and Guy Gregg introduced last October.
The law was named for Matthew Goodman, a 14-year-old with autism who died last February following several months of mechanical and chemical restraints in a New Jersey residential facility. The bill would have strongly limited the use of restraints and other aversive practices on adults and children with developmental disabilities and brain injuries to emergency situations only. It had been drafted with substantial input from parents and other advocates concerned about the number of injuries and deaths related to the use and overuse of such restraints in facilities across the state.
It would have applied to all private and publicly-funded facilities.
One of those testifying was Janice Roach, Matthew's mother. Another was Rick Tallman, a Trenton resident whose 12-year-old son, Jason, died just two days after being placed at a Pennsylvania residential treatment facility in May 1993.
Others included representatives from disability-related organizations such as The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities of the Robert Woods Johnson Medical School, New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey, The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey (SPAN), New Jersey TASH, and The Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect.
But when the advocates arrived to testify, they learned that A2855 had been substituted -- just two days earlier -- with A2849, a "compromise bill" that looked nothing like the original. The bill would change very little, according to those who had supported the original measure.
After seven hours of heart-wrenching testimony the committee went ahead and passed the compromise bill. Then sponsors of the compromise measure offered to name it "Matthew's Law".
Roach turned down the offer. In a statement released Wednesday, Roach said she would not lend her son's name to a bill that she believes would "perpetuate the suffering he endured."
Following the committee's vote, Assemblymen Munoz and Gregg demanded that their names be removed from A2849.
"The die was already cast, the decision pre-determined, the hearing just for show," said Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director of The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey (SPAN). "We stand with thousands of parents, advocates, and children, youth, and adults with disabilities today in expressing our disappointment in the Committee substitute bill allowing the continued use of restraints and aversives in New Jersey's public and private institutions."
"But we will not mourn, we will organize!" Autin added. "And Matthew's Law will become law,"
Roach is determined to make sure no more children die like her son.
"Then Matthew's death will not be in vain," said Roach. "We parents will never give up until Matthew's Law is passed."
Text of Assembly Bill No. 2855, "Matthew's Law" (State of New
Rick Tallman's Testimony from January 16, 2003
New Report Says Goodman Was Not
The DYFS report is in such sharp contrast with one done six months ago by the Division of Developmental Disabilities that officials with the state's Department of Human Services want to see if DYFS did a "thorough and complete" investigation.
Matthew, who had autism, was a resident at The Lindens, an institution for youths with developmental disabilities run by Bancroft Neurohealth Inc. of Haddonfield, New Jersey. He died at a nearby hospital on February 6, 2002 of pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and a blood infection.
Matthew's parents claim that the excessive use of restraints and heavy medication at Lindens weakened his immune system. They pointed to evidence that Matthew was placed in restraints for hours at a time -- even overnight -- along with a medical report that showed the teen lost 23 pounds in the final six days of his life.
The DDD investigation last summer concluded that Matthew had been abused and neglected in the month before he died, but it did not connect that mistreatment with his death. Last month, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office determined after its own investigation that Bancroft was not criminally responsible for his death.
"These were two different investigations, all under the umbrella of the Department of Human Services, that were totally different," said Janice Roach, Matthew's mother. "I'm just stunned." Roach has been advocating for "Matthew's Law" a measure that would ban the use of restraints except in emergency situations.
Assistant Human Services Commissioner Arburta Jones, who oversees the Department of Human Services' new Program Integrity and Accountability Office, last week ordered an investigation into the DYFS report because it differs so much from the DDD report.
Pam Ronan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said one problem was that DDD used Bancroft's own guidelines and standards, while DYFS used the state definition of abuse and neglect.
Matthew's death prompted Assemblyman Eric Munoz to co-sponsor a measure that would have eliminated the use of restraints to punish people with disabilities in private and public facilities. The language in the bill was rejected last month by a legislative committee and substituted with much more lenient guidelines.
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