Employees at the Orem Nursing Facility have been charged with negligent abuse in the patient’s death

Two employees at a nursing facility for people with intellectual disabilities in Orem have been charged in connection with the death of a patient, the Utah Attorney General’s office said Tuesday.

The facility, the Hidden Hollow Care Center, is one of at least two mentioned in a damning Disability Law Center report released Monday, which argues that state agencies are tasked with regulating long-term care facilities in Utah , which are designed to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable patients.

Hidden Hollow’s director of care Amy Lauritzen, 53, and facility administrator Laetitia Odunze, 70, are each dealing with a felony charge of reckless serious abuse of a vulnerable adult, according to a press release.

The patient who died had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was scheduled to receive medication to treat the condition. The attorney general’s office alleges that both Lauritzen and Odunze were aware that the facility was out of medication and knew that the patient had begun expressing suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide in the days leading up to his death, the indictment documents say.

However, the indictment documents indicate that neither Lauritzen nor Odunze informed the night staff of the situation or “took any action” to prevent the patient’s death.

The patient, identified in the indictment as “CN,” died when he was hit by a car in the Hidden Hollow parking lot early April 11, 2022. The driver was a Hidden Hollow employee and the death was ruled a suicide.

The The man killed lived at the facility for about two and a half months before his death, according to the indictment documents. When he moved in, he had none of the medications he was prescribed.

“Instead of planning appropriate medical examinations [the patient] could be officially admitted and receive proper medical treatment, [Lauritzen] managed [medication to the patient] using a stock of discontinued medications saved from one or more previous patients,” the indictment documents said.

The patient received the full dose of this borrowed medication from about the time of his arrival until April 1, 2022. As supplies began to dwindle, the patient began receiving smaller doses. As of April 4, 2022, the remaining medication had run out and the patient was not receiving any, according to the indictment documents.

“The following week [the patient] “I engaged in uncontrolled behavior, including beating staff and residents, running outside, lying on the street and screaming that he wanted to die,” the indictment documents say.

One example occurred on April 7, 2022, when the patient reportedly ran naked from the facility into the street, court documents say. He was heard repeating, “He had to call 911 and wanted to die.”

Three days later, on April 10, 2022, the patient ran out of the facility again, this time attempting to lie down in the middle of the street. Odunze accompanied him back to the house, according to the indictment documents.

“During an interview [Odunze] “No action was taken other than closely monitoring him,” the documents said.

Tonight, Odunze left the facility around 8:30 p.m. without taking any emergency measures or warning the staff member, who ended up striking and killing the patient just hours later, indictment documents say.

“In her role as administrator [Odunze] was a caretaker who had a duty of care [the patient], a vulnerable adult,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “Instead, she allowed it [the patient’s] Health becomes endangered when suicidal behavior is not properly pursued. [Odunze] There was a failure to take immediate action, adequately warn staff, or implement safety precautions.”

The Disability Law Center report released Monday details the April 11, 2022 death of Chien Nguyen, who was a patient at the Hidden Hollow Care Center. His initials match the patient’s initials as described in the billing records. The date and manner of Nguyen’s death are also consistent.

That report said Hidden Hollow was fined $8,000 in connection with Nguyen’s death and another confrontation in which an employee allegedly assaulted a resident and fractured his tooth. The facility was also banned from admitting additional residents for a month, but after that period, Hidden Hollow continued to accept and care for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the report said.

Last week, the Utah attorney general’s office filed charges of neglect, abuse and exploitation against a father and son who previously operated an unlicensed care facility for vulnerable adults in Midvale that was closed by county health officials in 2022 because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions became .

This closed facility, Evergreen Place, was also cited in the Disability Law Center report.

The report called on Utah authorities to tighten regulations on long-term care facilities to ensure “quality oversight.”

“Across all service systems, Utah licensing and state agencies have failed to protect individuals with disabilities,” the report said. “Time and time again, facilities are operating that mistreat vulnerable residents and do not offer them appropriate treatment or even decent living conditions.”

Justin Scaccy

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