State found willful and gross negligence when six residents fled understaffed unit

Newport News Behavioral Health Center was cited by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) for violations related to gross negligence, abuse and neglect, and staffing ratios. DBHDS found that the facility staff did not actively supervise residents during transition, which allowed six children to elope from the facility and nine children to enter the same room. In addition, during the evening of August 5, 2013, the supervision ratio at Newport News was one staff for 12 residents (1:12), rather than the required ratio of 1:8,  for a period of 7 minutes. DBHDS found that the provider:
“engaged in willful and gross negligence [jeopardizing] residents as evidenced by lack of appropriate ratios on unit thus compromising the ability to provide appropriate supervision and protect the health and safety of the residents.”
DBHDS also noted that, “General concerns exist with the implementation of policies and procedures relative to the definition of ‘high alert’ status as a physician ordered special precaution.” In the Corrective Action Plan, the facility agreed to modify the staff ratios to 1:4 during waking hours and to modify staffing schedules to provide more support and supervision of the residents by direct care staff and unit managers.