When Gov. Rick Perry's office confirmed last month that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating allegations of abuse and neglect at the Denton State School, Laura Albrecht, a spokesperson with the state's Department of Aging and Disability Services, insisted, "We welcome the scrutiny." Not sure she feels the same way this morning, as the Associated Press combed through an open records request to discover that "more than 800 employees at Texas' 13 large facilities for the mentally and developmentally disabled have been suspended or fired for abusing patients since fiscal year 2004." And 239 of those workers were punished last year alone.
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The Denton State School, which serves Dallas and Denton and Tarrant and most other North Texas counties, has been investigated several times in recent years -- following the savage 2002 beating of a patient named Hasib Chishty by an employee at the facility. Chishty is now in a wheelchair and can eat only through a tube -- and, as of last summer, he remained at the facility. And things do not appear to be much better now: According to the AP, the Denton State School was "cited 25 times for failing to meet federal standards" following an April 2007 inspection. Alas, what does Laura Albrecht have to say about the 800-plus firings and suspensions now? "Our employees go through training to recognize abuse and neglect and to report any incidents." --Robert Wilonsky