Mentor Oregon: County to terminate lease for “appalling” conditions at homes for people with disabilities

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Klamath County is breaking two long-term leases with Mentor Oregon, a care provider under U.S. Senate investigation for alleged abuse and neglect of its developmentally disabled clients.

On Tuesday, commissioner Derrick DeGroot said he and Developmental Disabilities Director Phillip Squibb recently toured the two county-owned facilities rented by Mentor Oregon. They saw “absolutely appalling” living situations, DeGroot said, including severe electrical, plumbing and cleanliness issues.

“Our building looks horrible — not only does it look horrible, it’s not livable in some situations, yet they have people living in it,” DeGroot said.

Squibb said three mentor clients were living in the homes, as well as two children aged 1 and 3.

“I think Mentor Oregon has totally let our citizens and the people that live in Klamath County down,” Commissioner Donnie Boyd said Tuesday.

The Oregon branch of for-profit national corporation Mentor Network is under national scrutiny. Senator Ron Wyden recently launched a U.S. Senate investigation into allegations of abuse against Mentor Oregon

The state has indefinitely halted placements at all Mentor-operated homes, and is currently investigating circumstances of Klamath County Mentor client’s February death.

Mentor Oregon is the biggest residential care provider in Klamath County.

‘No-brainer’

On Tuesday, commissioners DeGroot and Boyd said terminating Mentor’s usage of the county-owned properties was a “no-brainer.”

They agreed to pursue a mutual termination agreement with the company, and will likely give Mentor 30 to 60 days notice of its decision.

Commissioners said they would not evict the current Mentor clients. They said the county will take over individual leases for the three Mentor clients who live in the properties. The county may also help them move to a nearby unoccupied county-owned property which is undergoing renovations.

Squibb said the county could work with other contracted care providers to provide clients with services they need after the Mentor lease is broken.

Future steps

DeGroot and Boyd expressed interested in taking further steps against Mentor Oregon.

Squibb he was also frustrated by Mentor’s conduct, and was actively recruiting other care providers to come to the county.

The issue is complex, Squibb said — even if Mentor is mistreating its clients, the county can’t simply cease business with Mentor if no other care provider will take them in.

“If I am just chucking everybody out and not trying to collaborate and work with folks, am I ultimately doing a disservice to our people?” Squibb said.

He said a for-profit care company based out of Grants Pass, Premier Community Support, would soon provide supported living services to Klamath County clients.

Premier Community Support plans to eventually operate a group home for developmentally disabled folks, Squibb said.

Ongoing H&N investigation

The Herald and News is conducting a local investigation into Mentor Oregon services in Klamath County.

The newspaper requested records of 911 calls dating to Jan. 1, 2016 from each of the nine local Mentor-operated group homes. 114 calls for service were made from the two county-owned properties in the last three years. 18 police reports were filed as a result of the calls.

The H&N has filed public records requests for:

Six police reports taken at the two county-owned properties which were forwarded to the District Attorney’s office for potential further action;16 additional police reports filed by the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office at four other Mentor-operated homes;State DHS records for all substantiated complaints of abuse against Mentor Oregon in Klamath County;Results of the state’s investigation into the February death at a local Mentor facility.

Squibb recently denied a Herald and News request to tour the county-owned homes, citing privacy concerns.

Originally published by the Herald and News.

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