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When it comes to medical care, some of the state’s most vulnerable residents, the 8,700 adults who live in group homes for the retarded, are treated as second-class citizens.

Since 2002, three group home residents have died because of medical neglect and nine other deaths are under investigation.

Since 1999, more than 260 cases of physical abuse and medical error involving the disabled have been substantiated each year.

And often when something goes wrong, no one is held accountable.


In this series we use the term "retarded" to describe people with mental handicaps because it is direct and commonly understood. We do so with respect and an understanding that some prefer such alternatives as mentally challenged or intellectually disabled on the grounds that retarded carries a stigma. Arguments on both sides of the debate are posted here on the web.

1st place, social-issues coverage, New England Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper competition for 2004.

Series summary


Nov. 1, 2004 - Officials investigate treatment of a woman in a Randolph group home.

April 20, 2004 - A key legislative committee is saying no to $132,000 more for the cash-strapped agency that oversees care of the retarded

April 16, 2004 - $20M more for salaries proposed for caretakers of mentally retarded

March 26, 2004 - State owes a promise of safety - Editorial

March 25, 2004 - A bill to increase into abuse stalls in the legislature

March 25, 2004 - Care for retarded people in Massachusetts has serious shortcomings - Editorial

Day 1 - March 20, 2004

The death of a 39-year-old Weymouth man last year called attention to serious problems with medical care for the 8,700 retarded adults living in group homes. The people caring for them are poorly trained and ill-paid for the challenge of meeting their complex health needs.
Read more ...

Case files

Graphic shows abuse cases.


Day 2 - March 22, 2004

Rachel Deline, a 50-year-old retarded woman, died after she was given a double dose of a powerful anti-depressant. No one denies that the system failed her, but no one has been held accountable.
Read more ...

Many group home workers know too little English to understand instructions on giving medicines to retarded residents and fail a state certification test over and over.
Read more ...

Case files

Day 3 - March 23, 2004

When retarded people suffer mistreatment and abuse inside group homes, too often no one outside takes action or even notices, advocates and family members say.
Read more ...

Group home workers responsible for recognizing signs of illness in retarded adults and for giving them medicine are paid about the same as cashiers at fast-food restaurants.
Read more ...

A tale of two families with retarded children in group homes.
Read more ...

Case files

Graphic shows workload up, staffing down.


Sue Reinert
Sue Reinert

This series was written by Sue Reinert, who covers health care and other issues for The Patriot Ledger, and Casey Ross, a general assignment reporter.

Reinert has been on the staff for 14 years. Before that she worked for 18 years at newspapers in Boston, the North Shore, New York City and upstate New York.

Click to Reinert.

Casey Ross
Casey Ross

Casey Ross previously worked for newspapers in Vermont while studying journalism at St. Michael’s College.


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