Widespread violations found in a DC drug treatment program
In a rare and exclusive look inside one of the District's drug addiction treatment programs, ABC 7 News has uncovered widespread neglect of the city's drug addicts.
And it has happened inside a home meant to protect them.
The center's been run by a private company, but paid for and regulated by the DC government.
There have been serious lapses in oversight.
Federal City Recovery Services runs a for-profit rehab home at 920 Bellevue Street, SE, deep in Ward Eight.
Federal inspection reports from 2009 contain numerous cries for help. On May 15th a report said, "Residents have repeatedly complained about lack of food supply."
June 30th: a complaint of "inadequate drinking water supply."
And on December 15th, inspectors found "uncooked meatloaf."
"We need to hold those people accountable," said Tyrone Patterson, an advocate for recovering addicts. "Because this is taxpayers' money. These are our families in these programs."
And as residents scavenged for food, their home seemed to crumble from within.
A report from July 2, 2009 notes "tile peeling over entire bathroom walls...bathroom door hanging off it's hinges…carpets in all units on third floor badly worn."
In March of this year, ABC 7 obtained hidden camera footage of broken toilets--with seats unhinged or missing altogether, rodent traps in the kitchen.
And then there were the bed bugs.
A November 5 report references "renewed bed bug issues at FCRS."
Complaints came in March, May, June, and November of 2009.
Mike Miller, a former employee, was disgusted by the conditions. He was interviewed by ABC 7 while he was still working there.
"The blankets and the pillows don't get washed but maybe once a month, and most of the time not even that," Miller said.
"Most of them don't get soap or toothpaste, they don't get washcloth or towel, and toothbrush," he said.
Half a dozen sources told ABC 7 that men have also been denied basic hygeine items.
Former employees like Deborah Campbell say they routinely bought soap and toilet paper--because the company refused.
"I felt bad about the guys living in what they were living in," Campbell said.
But housing was just part of the mission of Bellevue Street. Equally important was helping residents prepare for a normal life.
But on December 15 a report said, "Counselors (were) reportedly still not providing regular one-to-one individual sessions."
And that violation surfaced repeatedly, in March, July, and December of last year.
"We are saying, 'trust us. We're here to serve you.' And then we lie to them," Campbell said. "We take the money, we get paid, and we house them."
ABC 7 talked with Henry Pierce, owner of Federal City Recovery Services.
He denied allegations of men not receiving hygeine items.
"A lot of these allegations have been trumped up because they have an axe to grind with the organization," Pierce said.
But he admitted to shortcomings in the inspection reports.
"I'll take the hit. I'll take the hit," Pierce said. "A year ago, a lot of our internal processes failed. A lot of the things we did on the inside of the program failed.
"But you know what it made us do? It made us get a little more diligent--and this is the point I'm trying to make in this interview--I think we've improved dramatically over time."
Over time, it appears improvements were made. But inspectors have cited failures for years.
And from Fiscal Year 2007 through 2010, the DC government will have paid the company more than $4 million.
ABC 7 talked with Dwayne Ward, a former resident at Bellevue Street, who relapsed.
He's homeless now, living in abandoned buildings. His family gave up.
"I really don't have contact with my brother or sister anymore because of the fact that--you know what--they don't trust me anymore," Ward said. "They don't trust me at all.
District and federal officials now confirm FCRS has resolved all issues.
But they say they'll be keeping a close watch on them in the months ahead.
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