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Traumatic brain injury facility under scrutiny

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The Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR) is under fire for abusing patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries, according to Bloomberg News writer David Armstrong. Five residents have been found dead since 1998, and two of those deaths happened in the last year and a half. Nearly 500 allegations of abuse and neglect have been reported to Florida’s Department of Children in Families since 2005. Armstrong’s story said investigators have verified 36 of those claims.

He went on to enumerate several patients’ experiences in the 196-bed, 900-acre facility surrounded by snakes and alligators:

  • Peter Price, 24, suffered a brain injury in a bicycle accident when he was eight. While at FINR, staff members allegedly restrained him and punched him in the face and groin. FINR’s own medical records note “blue discoloration around his left eye, one testicle larger than the other, and other discoloration on his arms and chest,” wrote Armstrong. Price eventually escaped the only way he could: by swallowing five fish hooks and 22 AA batteries. After surgery, he was transferred.
  • Video that a staff member recorded shows two staff members sitting on a couch with a 21-year-old autistic patient sandwiched between them. They allegedly punched, elbowed and slapped him 30 times, according to Armstrong. When the victim moans, the staff members tell him to shut up so they can hear the TV.
  • Other video footage shows a staff member “pushing [another autistic patient] away from him on a couch, standing him up, kicking his legs out from under him and leaving him curled up on the floor next to a blinking Christmas tree,” Armstrong reported.
  • Four staff members killed an ex-Marine by pinning him down until he couldn’t breathe. That man’s family won a $5 million verdict in a negligence lawsuit.
  • FINR settled other negligence litigation over two more resident deaths.
  • One man, who went to FINR after being injured in a car accident, died when solid food lodged in his lungs. Apparently, staff members failed to note his care plan, which said he could not swallow.

Janet Clark resided at FINR from 2006 to 2007 after being injured in a car accident, according to Armstrong.

“One time they had me down and one of the staff kicked me in the eye with a boot,” she reportedly said. “They were saying shut up, screaming at me. I was hurting so much I couldn’t stop. It was terrifying.”

Clark admitted to Armstrong that she had “behavioral issues” while recovering from her brain injury. According to caregiver.org, “Personality changes, memory and judgment deficits, lack of impulse control, and poor concentration are all common” among traumatic brain injury survivors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that number at 5.3 million and rising, since safer cars and better medicine enable them to live.

Armstrong’s article said that FINR used to bill itself as “extremely high quality to very difficult clients.” However, the facility also stated it had “zero tolerance” for resident abuse.

Apparently, times have changed.

If you suspect that a loved one is being neglected or abused, please contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to review the facts of your case. Don’t wait for your relative or friend to take matters into their own hands as Mr. Price did.

2 Comments

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  1. Truth says:
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    ‘One-sided’ story doesn’t paint true picture of rehab facility

    Recently, there were news articles on the heels of a scathing report published by Bloomberg News about the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation. The allegations and insinuations in the Bloomberg story by David Armstrong are not only disingenuous, they are biased, prejudicial and intellectually dishonest.

    Unfortunately, his report has seemingly influenced others, and his false allegations are being represented as facts to the unsuspecting public.

    In advance of the story, Armstrong reached out to me in my capacity as the director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at FINR. I have served in that role for the past 10 years and have been involved with FINR in one way or another for the past 20. The role I have with FINR is strictly voluntary, and I have never accepted a dime in compensation, as I truly believe in what they are doing at FINR.

    That said, I think this gives me the unique ability to speak to the high level of quality care that FINR delivers to their patients day-in and day-out.

    Not surprisingly, none of my comments made it into Armstrong’s story. Had they, readers would have learned that as a medical doctor I whole-heartedly believe that FINR is one of the best facilities of its kind in the country. That is no easy task, as they serve one of the most difficult populations of patients in the country, both in terms of the medical care they require as well as the underlying behavioral issues that often affect those with brain injuries.

    Many facilities turn away patients at the door because the nature of their condition can prevent these facilities from being able to care for them, much less help them lead a more productive and fulfilling life.

    At FINR, however, patients are under the constant care and supervision of a dedicated team of staff members, and patients reap the benefits of an institution that is actively working to improve their lives through rehabilitation.

    This one-sided representation by Armstrong doesn’t paint an accurate picture of FINR and is clearly being driven by an outside force whose interest is not in the health or well-being of FINR’s patients, but rather in hurting the reputation of FINR.

    I am saddened that these malicious and unfounded attacks may negatively influence those who were considering putting a loved one who is in need of care into the capable hands of FINR, as it truly is the very best facility for many patients.

    I hope that by assisting in setting the record straight, news organizations will cease from printing hearsay.

    And if anyone has any question about the type of facility FINR is, I hope they visit for themselves — our doors are always open — so they can witness the unparalleled standard of care that FINR delivers.

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    Hello, Truth:
    I’m the marketing director here at Spangenberg, and I’d like to thank you for reading and commenting, since my intern, Joe, has returned to school.
    I hope that anyone who’s curious about FINR takes you up on the offer in your last paragraph. In the interest of fair and balanced journalism, I certainly would if I lived in or near Florida. Until I take my talents to South Beach, I appreciate you sharing your side of the story.