EUSTIS, Fla. — A state-funded group home where a man with developmental disabilities died has closed.
9 Investigates learned that it actually closed six months ago, but the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities just confirmed it for us this week as part of a request sent to them for information more than a week ago. The operator of the group home confirmed it, too, though told us it’s not connected to Caleb Walker’s death.
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The Oconee group home operated by ATTAIN is nestled in a quiet Eustis neighborhood. But there’s no one working or living in the home set up to care for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It’s where Walker received care until he died while being restrained in November 2020.
“They were supposed to be keeping him safe,” his mother, Saralyn Walker, said.
READ: Family of autistic man who died in local group home announces wrongful death lawsuit
A spokesperson for the operator said the closure had nothing to do with Walker’s death.
In a statement, they said: “ATTAIN voluntarily consolidated staff from other homes, including Oconee, in August, due solely to staffing shortages impacting the entire industry.”
READ: 2 state agencies believe group home failed autistic man twice
That consolidation occurred, they said, two months after the Department of Children and Families concluded ATTAIN did not fail in its duty of care for Walker and a month before the APD filed a complaint against the operators over Walker’s care, including his death.
As part of that complaint, the APD stated a DCF investigation found the staff performed the restraint procedure improperly by failing to properly monitor and check Walker’s status during the restraint, causing his death, though the state attorney’s investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.
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The wrongful death lawsuit his family filed alleges that the facility failed Walker and specifically states that inadequate staffing remained a constant problem at the Oconee home. Due to this problem, they allege ATTAIN was unable to comply with the behavioral support plan of all of the residents of the Oconee home — something the executive director denied when Channel 9 spoke to him for our initial reporting.
In the statement Channel 9 received Tuesday, a spokesperson said Oconee remains fully licensed, as do ATTAIN’s other homes that are not currently in service due to the staffing shortage. ATTAIN would reopen all of those homes if they could be fully staffed.
ATTAIN was scheduled to have a hearing this week to determine if it will face any consequences due to the complaint filed over the care of Walker, including his death. The hearing has been postponed.
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