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Abuse allegations leveled at JC home for disabled adults

Becky Campbell and Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY — The Tennessee Department of Human Services has launched an investigation of alleged abuse at a Johnson City home for mentally retarded and developmentally delayed adults.

DHS Community Relations Director Michelle Mallory Johnson said the department received a complaint in late March of abuse at a private home for disabled adults located at 1306 Seminole Drive and is working with local law enforcement to investigate.

Johnson said the DHS will not release any details of the complaint or the identity of any individuals involved unless the investigation reveals evidence of a crime.

“We’re looking into it. We are investigating with local law enforcement,” she said.

Kristin Helm, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s public information officer, also confirmed the investigation.

“There is an allegation of abuse at Omni Visions” in a Johnson City facility owned by the company, Helm said.

“We received a complaint this week. TBI has not opened an official investigation. ... We are working with DHS,” she said.

The home where the alleged incident happened is owned and operated by Omni Visions, a Nashville-based residential service provider with regional offices in Greeneville and residential facilities across East Tennessee.

Omni Visions’ corporate president, Jim Henry, said he received a letter notifying him of the investigation on Wednesday and that the company’s regional manager was made aware of the investigation earlier in the week.

Henry said the private, three-person home is continuing to operate, and that “all parties and all safety elements involved in the difficulty have been removed.”

He said state regulations prevent him from discussing the incident and from conducting an in-house investigation until the state investigation is concluded.

“At this point, our hands are tied. We have to step back and let the state investigate, then we’ll do our own investigation. All we can do now is make sure the clients are safe. All those involved are no longer there. We removed all the elements that were a safety factor to the clients,” Henry said.

Johnson noted the statutory definition of “abuse” includes neglect and financial crimes as well as physical abuse and that other state agencies may be asked to assist in the case.

The Tennessee Division of Mental Retardation Services contracts with Omni Visions to provide services to clients throughout the state.

Tony Toriano, public information officer for Mental Retardation Services, said Omni Visions would be required to report the alleged abuse within four hours of receiving notification.

Late Wednesday, Toriano had not reached division investigators to confirm if that notification was made.

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