FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2019
Families File Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for Pervasive Abuse and Neglect of Persons with Developmental Disabilities at Southwest Idaho Treatment Center
Boise, Idaho – The families of victims living at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) filed a Federal Class Action Lawsuit this week against the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the Administrator of SWITC, and numerous unknown SWITC employees that inflicted abuse and neglect on residents. Instead of helping people with developmental disabilities in crisis situations stabilize and transition back to the community, SWITC and its employees and administrators promoted a culture of rampant abuse and neglect, including at least one death, and demonstrated a refusal to effect change and protect our vulnerable citizens. The State effectively refused to attempts by the families to engage in settlement discussions, forcing the families to initiate a lawsuit.
“The State of Idaho has promoted and allowed widespread abuse, neglect and mistreatment of vulnerable adults and children at the SWITC program for many years. The State and SWITC administrators and employees must be held accountable for maliciously violating the civil rights of these residents,” said Shamus O’Meara, counsel for the families and partner with the law firm of O’Meara, Leer, Wagner and Kohl, P.A., in Minneapolis. Co-Counsel Char Quade, Founder of CK Quade Law, PLLC in Boise, stated “The State needs to implement an appropriate Olmstead Plan so that SWITC residents can transition back to the community to live among family and friends. The abuse and neglect at SWITC must end, and residents must be treated with dignity and respect.”
The families assert their claims on behalf of their loved ones and on behalf of all victims that suffered abuse and neglect while residing at SWITC. Their class action claims follow the comprehensive investigative reports published by DisAbility Rights Idaho and the State Legislature of Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations.
The lawsuit seeks relief for violations of federal civil and constitutional rights involving people with developmental disabilities who have resided at SWITC. The families seek systemic and institutional change in the function, operation and management of SWITC. The State must ensure that no further abuse or neglect will occur, that a comprehensive plan of action (Olmstead Plan) is developed to properly transition individuals with developmental disabilities into the community, that staff are properly qualified and trained, and that there are severe consequences for violations. The lawsuit also seeks damages, attorneys’ fees and related costs.