Carolina Public Press has spent the past year investigating adult care homes across North Carolina, and it found a lack of consistency and accountability across the board in how these centers are evaluated. But when a tip led managing editor Frank Taylor to look at one particular center, he found not only shocking violations including prostitution, but also a baffling handling of the case by the state.
Cedarbrook Residential Center in McDowell County sued the state after reports of serious penalties resulted in huge fines, but on the day of the trial the state settled, expunging the center’s egregious record. They also raised its star level to a perfect four out of four. Host Frank Stasio talks with Frank Taylor about the exposé and the questions that remain.
On the investigation of adult care home Cedarbrook Residential Center:
As we were looking at facilities we looked at the most penalized facilities in the state. And several of the sources we talked to said, “Are you looking at Cedarbrook?” We said, “Cedarbrook doesn't show up on the list.” And as we began to look at why, it turned out that Cedarbrook should have been on the list, but they had gone to court and reached a settlement with the state to withdraw all of the statements of deficiencies. There were three bulky statements of deficiencies issued against them between late 2015 and mid 2016. All of the negative impacts – they had been restricted not to allow new admissions and so on, and they had been given a zero star rating – those were all gone. Just disappeared from the normal database where you can look up records on any adult care home in the state. And in place there was a shiny four-star rating that, as we eventually found out, wasn't based on any reality.
On violations at Cedarbrook:
There were claims of prostitution at this facility. There were claims that people there were engaging in sexual practices. These are people that are supposed to be supervised because of these [mental] impairments, and there was nothing to be done to ensure that the sex was consensual. There were allegations that people were being admitted with violent histories and nothing was being done to remove them despite those violent histories when they acted out. There were also concerns about just general neglect of people – some of the conditions as far as sanitary conditions at the facility. There was a work program at the facility that allowed people to work for credits that they could only use at the facility even though they're paying or taxpayers are paying for them to be there. This appears to be like a prison commissary. And they were cited for that as a pretty serious violation. All of these things added up to some of the largest total violations that we've seen.
On the unexplained settlement offered by the state:
I don't know why the state settled, but the state came back and said, “Ok, we're going to withdraw everything, and you'll get a four-star rating, and here's how we'll make up the four-star rating.” And they literally used the wording "create" a four-star rating … There are some pretty serious concerns about a public agency, a regulatory agency, just being able to make something go away when it is inconvenient legally or politically.