Four aides at the state’s O.D. Heck Developmental Center have been put on paid leave amid allegations that a developmentally disabled client was assaulted at a city McDonald’s restaurant after the client spilled one of the aide’s food.
According to a police source familiar with the investigation, the assault occurred outside the McDonald’s in Mechanicville on Thursday.
The source said that at least one person witnessed the assault as the aides and patients ate in a van outside the restaurant.
O.D. Heck, based in Niskayuna, is run by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
OMRDD spokeswoman Nicole Weinstein confirmed the aides were placed on paid leave as a result of an incident on Thursday but would not discuss most details of the case.
“It’s the individuals in our care that we have to be concerned about. Their safety and welfare is of the utmost importance to us,” Weinstein said. “Any sort of incident that is reported, we will look into and investigate.”
Weinstein could not confirm how officials learned of the incident but said her office has suspended its investigation, pending the result of the investigation by Mechanicville police.
She said that the incident happened during a sanctioned van outing. No bruises occurred and no hospital care was needed as a result of the incident, according to Weinstein.
All of the clients in the van that day were adults, she said.
The incident comes on the heels of a state report critical of the way O.D. Heck cared for Jonathan Carey, the 13-year-old autistic boy who died last year when an aide smothered him while improperly restraining him during a van outing.
The state Commission on Quality Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities report concluded that, “While it is our overall finding that the child’s death was the direct result of the actions of the staff involved and not caused, either directly or indirectly, by any failure on the part of your agency, we did identify several problems in the care which the child received [at O.D. Heck].”
Among those problems, the commission found that the boy’s assailant, Edwin Tirado, worked 197.5 hours in the two weeks leading up to the death of the boy, with 117 hours of overtime in that time period.
Tirado is currently serving five to 15 years in state prison for the death, the maximum sentence.
The investigation also found that a seatbelt buckle guard may not have been installed in the van Jonathan was in, even though it should have been.
The Carey family has claimed that O.D. Heck was given a buckle guard for Jonathan to use because the boy frequently unbuckled his seat belt.
Neither Weinstein nor the police source would release the names of the direct-care aides who have been put on paid leave as a result of Thursday’s incident.
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Categories: Schenectady County