Mental health group calls for official's resignation

Monday, August 23, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- An advocacy group has called for the state's head of mental retardation services to resign over reports of systematic abuse at a resident care center for the mentally ill in suburban St. Louis.

Mentally Retarded Citizens of Missouri demanded the resignation of Anne Deaton on Friday, in the wake of the alleged Aug. 3 beating death of a retarded man at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.

Deaton is Missouri's director of the Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which oversees the center. She could not be reached for comment Sunday.

"The alleged beating death at Bellefontaine is the latest example of neglect and lack of supervision of patients and staff by central office personnel in Jefferson City," said Joe Weber of Dexter, president of the 40-year-old group.

He accused Deaton of not being attentive to quality of care at the state's five resident care centers for the mentally disabled.

Bill Nance of Albany, the group's board chairman, blamed the state's inability to attract qualified staff on low worker pay and Deaton's plan to close portions of Bellefontaine.

Dorn Schuffman, director of the Department of Mental Health, dispatched Deaton to Bellefontaine over concerns about George Holmes' death and other allegations of workers abusing residents.

Jeanne Henry, the department's spokeswoman, said Friday the department was behind Deaton and her staff.

The state and police are investigating the abuse allegations. Five state workers are on paid leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.

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