Drug-related death in group home results in $10,000 fine

By: - April 7, 2023 4:44 pm

A group home for adults with disabilities has been fined $10,000 for a resident’s death last year from acute drug toxicity. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A group home for adults with disabilities has been fined $10,000 by the state for a resident’s death last year from an acute drug toxicity.

State inspection records indicate a female resident of the Flora Adult Group Home in Dubuque died on Oct. 30, 2022, just four weeks after she was admitted to the home.

Around 5 p.m. on Oct. 29, the home’s registered nurse found the resident lying on her side on the floor next to her bed, telling the nurse she was “falling.” The resident was able to get to the bed but then repeatedly and forcefully threw herself backward onto the mattress.  She asked the staff for help and asked whether someone was going to take her to the hospital, but was unable to articulate what was wrong.

The nurse telephoned the home’s on-call supervisor who allegedly advised the nurse to instruct the staff to keep an eye on the woman but refrain from “coddling” her, state records show.

About 9 p.m., the woman was on the floor again and was asking for help. She was also holding her arms out in front of her, as if she was reaching for something, and her eyes appeared to be glassy and unfocused.

One worker then called the home’s registered nurse, while another telephoned the on-call supervisor. According to state inspectors, the worker who called the nurse later said she could hear the on-call supervisor screaming at her colleague over the phone, saying the resident was not going to be taken to the hospital because her actions were nothing more than attention-seeking behavior.

The employee who was on the phone with the supervisor allegedly told inspectors the supervisor screamed at her and told her to stop bothering her about the resident because it was a behavioral issue that needed to be ignored.

During the latter part of the two phone calls, the supervisor was informed the resident was having trouble breathing. At that point, the supervisor allegedly became “extremely angry,” yelling at the workers and saying they needed to “ignore” the resident, according to inspectors.

The staff opted not to have resident taken to the hospital, and at 4:23 a.m., they called the nurse again to report the resident was found dead in her room.

Police later reported that when they arrived, there was a white powdery substance on the mattress in the resident’s room and a box of acetaminophen nearby. Inside a nearby purse, they found three bottles of acetaminophen, and in the pocket of a nearby jacket they found 12 loose acetaminophen tablets, as well as two loose Tylenol pills. More loose pills were found on the floor and in the resident’s blankets. In the bed, they also found a cup used to dispense medication and found another pill stuck to the resident’s body.

An autopsy indicated the resident died due to complications from an acute mixed-drug toxicity involving acetaminophen and prescription drugs. A subsequent investigation revealed none of the staff was aware the resident had access to any pills since all of her medications were supposed to administered by the staff.

The $10,000 fine against the Flora Adult Group Home is the maximum penalty that can be imposed against a state-licensed residential care facility. The home is operated by Hillcrest Family Services.

The home’s administrator, Mckinzi Houselog, declined to comment on the death when contacted Friday.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.