LINCOLN — State officials shut down a “house of miseries” in central Nebraska after the death this summer of a veteran with mental health problems.
But Disability Rights Nebraska is questioning why the state did not act more quickly after earlier finding abuse and neglect of residents and numerous care deficiencies at the facility.
“It was only after a tragedy occurred and the involvement of law enforcement that the revocation wheels began to grind,” said Eric Evans, the advocacy group’s chief executive officer.
The veteran was found dead in her room Sept. 3 at Life Quest at the Coolidge Center in Palmer.
State documents show she died of an apparent fall after suffering uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea for at least three days without treatment.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services had completed an inspection of Life Quest a month before the veteran’s death.
But officials took no action until Oct. 5, when they issued an order revoking the facility’s mental health center license. The revocation took effect 15 days later, after Life Quest passed up its opportunity to appeal.
HHS spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White said it took time to review all the information collected, determine which regulations had been violated and decide what action should be taken.
“In this case, there were numerous allegations, numerous clients, records and complex issues,” she said.
State records show Life Quest Inc. as the facility’s owner, with Nancy Stephens of Doniphan as the company’s sole officer.
Stephens declined to comment, as did the facility’s administrator, Audrey Perez.
Evans said the Life Quest situation points to a need for stronger state oversight of facilities housing people with mental illness. He noted it is the third Nebraska facility in five years to be shut down because of abuse, neglect and mismanagement.