TAMPA, Florida -- UPDATE: A regulatory counsel for FINR, Jay Adams sent this comment via email to the 10 News Investigators:
"This complaint is without merit. FINR has always allowed Florida Disability Rights immediate and unlimited access to investigate abuse allegations. It has also been the practice of FINR that when an advocate from Florida Disability Rights requests to see or speak to a patient, unrelated to an abuse investigation, that they make an appointment 24 hours in advance so that we can assure that the patient is available at the time the advocate comes. FINR has always cooperated fully with regulatory agencies, as well as Disability Rights Florida and it is unfortunate that they have filed this unsubstantiated complaint rather than focusing their resources and efforts on the health and well-being of Florida's disabled."
A new federal lawsuit was filed Monday by Disability Rights Florida against the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, which is in Wauchula about 50 miles South of Tampa.
DRF is, according to the group's website, a statewide protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities. The suit alleges more abuse at FINR.
The suit says DRF received two recent complaints of abuse. One complaint was that a resident was being inappropriately restrained. The other complaint involved a resident being physically abused by two staff members. Also, according to the suit, when a Disability Rights Florida representative went to investigate the two complaints, she was denied complete access to the facility, which she is allowed by law, and was asked to leave when she wanted to conduct more interviews.
Disability Rights Florida senior advocate investigator Christine O'Brien was there looking into the complaints just two days after the 10 News Investigators were there to get answers to allegations of abuse patients and family members of patients had raised. In our earlier story, undercover video showed one patient being abused by two caretakers, who were arrested.
We also talked to former patients who said they were abused, and family members of former patients who died while in FINR's care.
FINR admits some employees crossed the line, but said the policy of the organization is to treat patients with dignity.
During Ms. O'Brien's interview with the two FINR residents, she was told that other residents wanted to come forward to tell her about the abuse they had observed, according to the suit. Ms. O'Brien was informed that FINR, after speaking with its attorneys, was denying her further access, and she was asked to leave.
A status conference is set for October 11, at 2 p.m. at the federal court in Tampa.