Personal care home under scrutiny

 

A warrant to search a four-bedroom home in Hephzibah suspected of serving as an unlicensed personal care home for 18 people was issued recently.

According to a civil petition filed in Richmond County Superior Court, an auditor had a tip that some of the residents were forced to sleep on the floor in the house, which lacked air-conditioning.

In addition, the auditor had information indicating a wheelchair-bound person was wheeled outside to be bathed by use of an outside hose.

The petition was against Tamika Burns, who was suspected of operating an unlicensed personal care home on Anthony DeJuan Parkway.

The petition was filed by a compliance auditor with the Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulations Division. After receiving a complaint on July 11, the auditor spoke to two developmentally disabled people who had lived in the home, according to the complaint.

The auditor reported she tried to inspect the home on July 31, but Rickey Stephenson, who is allegedly in business with Burns, told the auditor she needed a warrant to enter the home. The warrant was granted on Aug. 14.

Burns had applied for a license to operate Caring 4 U personal care home at the same Anthony DeJuan Parkway home. Burns had managed a personal care home in Hephzibah until July 13, when the three patients were evicted because the owner of the house defaulted on the mortgage, according to the petition.

Burns reopened the home at the Anthony Dejuan Parkway location around July 10, 2013, and applied for a license to care for four patients. The home failed two inspections and Burns’ application for a license was denied on Nov. 5, 2013.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Health said the department will not comment about any possible open investigations.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said she hasn’t been advised of any possible action in connection with the home on Anthony DeJuan Parkway.

A new law that went into effect in July increases the potential punishment for operating an unlicensed personal care home.

A prosecutor can petition to have the home declared a nuisance. A first offense is still a misdemeanor, but if there is abuse, neglect or exploitation, the crime is treated as a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison.

In Cobb County, a woman who operated an unlicensed home pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges this year. Raequel Penny was sentenced in July to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years probation, according to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Web page.

According to a recent story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is renewing its efforts to crack down on unlicensed personal care homes, starting with a list of some 30 operators considered to be the worst offenders.

The GBI is co-sponsoring a training event in October for law enforcement officers and prosecutors, according to the Journal-Constitution story.

The Department of Community Health has a searchable Web site for personal care homes and other types of community care facilities. Anyone can go to the site to see if a home is licensed and read recent inspection reports.

If anyone has a complaint about a possible unlicensed home, or has concerns about a patient’s health or safety, it can be reported on the Web site. To make an anonymous report, one must call the department at (800) 878-6442. The Web site is dch.georgia.gov.

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