Commonwealth Journal

Local News

September 17, 2013

Oakwood worker charged with neglect

Somerset — An employee of Bluegrass Oakwood in Somerset has been arrested for allegedly provoking two mentally challenged individuals into an altercation.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office announced Tuesday that Coty King, 22, of Pine Knot, Ky., was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of knowing neglect of a vulnerable adult.

According to the Attorney General’s statement, King is accused of enticing a developmentally disabled adult patient at Oakwood — a facility dedicated to the care of such mental health issues — to hit another disabled patient.

King also allegedly recorded video of the incident on his cell phone.

Personnel at Oakwood notified an investigator with the Office of the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigators Monday morning after learning about the alleged incident, and King was arrested there at Oakwood.

Bluegrass.org, formerly the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, referred any questions about the incident to the state Cabinet of Health and Family Services (CHFS) once contacted. However, Bluegrass,org interim president and CEO David Hanna told the Commonwealth Journal that while he couldn’t comment on whether or not King had been let go from his job, Bluegrass.org “would not employ anyone who neglects” patients.

Jill Midkiff, executive director of the Office of Communications for CHFS, sent the following statement to the Commonwealth Journal regarding the alleged incident:

“Immediately after learning of the alleged actions of Coty King, Bluegrass notified all appropriate law enforcement and licensure agencies. King was arrested yesterday as he reported for work. The Cabinet’s Office of the Inspector General is conducting a full investigation, which is ongoing.

“Additionally, all personnel who may have been involved were also pulled from direct care until the investigation is complete. The Office of the Attorney General has also initiated an investigation.”

Midkiff confirmed that 12 staffers and three supervisors were pulled from duty. However, she stressed that CHFS does not suspect that all those individuals were involved, but were pulled from duty as a safety precaution “in case even one is determined to have knowledge of the incident.”

Oakwood has had a long past with incidents of abuse and neglect, though the situation has been vastly improved in recent years. A string of 24 Type A citations for such cases in 2005 and 2006 put the four-decade old facility in real peril of having to close. The rate incidents slowed dramatically though after Bluegrass Regional took over in 2007, however, and citation-worthy cases of abuse and neglect have been rare in recent years.

Midkiff said that it’s “too early to say” if this most recent incident would result in a Type A citation, and that the “investigation is ongoing.”

Pending his arraignment, King was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center. The Somerset Police Department assisted in providing transport of King to the jail, according to the Attorney General’s statement.

Violations of KRS 209.990(2) are Class C felonies punishable by up to five to 10 years in prison. All persons accused of a crime are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

"Our office took swift action immediately after learning of the incident," said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in a statement. "I appreciate the work of my investigators to work with local law enforcement to protect some of our Commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens. This type of alleged abuse will not be tolerated."

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