A former group-home worker charged with abusing a mentally disabled client testified Monday he was never trained to use a piece of equipment he's now on trial for failing to use.
On the first day of his trial in Douglas County District Court, former Community Living Opportunities employee Dustin D. Taylor, 21, testified he was never trained to use a "gait belt" to help lift and guide a 57-year-old man at Ponderosa House, a home for developmentally disabled adults in the 1200 block of East 26th Street.
Taylor is charged with physically mistreating the man on two occasions in June 2005 - once when he allegedly failed to use the gait belt to lift the man from the ground, and another time when he allegedly lifted the man out of a chair by his armpits and squeezed his cheeks together. He is scheduled to resume testifying this morning.
Taylor and another Ponderosa House employee, 34-year-old Eric S. Wyatt, were charged last fall with abusing the same man, one of the house's eight residents. Since then, further problems at the home have surfaced.
Earlier this month, the state levied a $10,000 fine against CLO after an investigation found that a supervisor at Ponderosa House had manhandled, taunted and verbally abused residents. The investigation also found the supervisor had made a blind resident stand outside alone in urine-soaked clothing for hours after she wet herself.
Ten employees at the home were terminated in May for witnessing, but not reporting, the abuse, but two told the Journal-World they had, in fact, tried to report problems.
Taylor testified that Ponderosa House was short-staffed when he began working there in May 2005. He said the 12-hour shifts at the home sometimes went smoothly but that residents "had their good days and bad days."
Former employees said the alleged victim in the case was one of the more challenging residents to work with.
Alicia Kaufman, then a co-worker of Taylor's, testified that she saw Taylor grab the man's cheeks when the man said he couldn't get up after eating dinner. She likened it to a mother grabbing a misbehaving child's cheeks.
"I believe it was more frustration, but I do believe it was harsh," she said.
Korby Harshaw, an investigator with Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's Medicaid Fraud and Abuse division, testified that Taylor admitted that incident in an interview after his arrest in October. He said Taylor told him he was tired and frustrated because the man was his only obstacle to finishing his work for the evening.