But Report Reveals One Staffer Left His Shift Early, With No Authorization
BY KEN LITTLE
A summary of an investigation report compiled by a state agency in response to the Dec. 2 death of a community home resident in Greene County "does not indicate that the death was a result of abuse or neglect by the staff."
The investigation was conducted by the Tennessee Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) following the death of 47-year-old Ronnie Derrick in a community home at 2015 Susong Drive.
"The currently available evidence in this case does not indicate that the death was a result of abuse or neglect by the staff at the East Tennessee Community Home," the report released this week states.
Derrick was found dead in his room in the community home in the Camp Creek community at 6:05 a.m. on Dec. 2, a Sunday morning.
The report summary said that Derrick's condition was "normal and routine" the night before his death and at bedtime.
VISUAL CHECKS DONE
"Visual bed checks were conducted hourly. This person preferred to not be disturbed throughout the night so bed checks were done visually with staff not physically entering his room," the report said.
But the investigation summary also said that one staff member on duty at the home "admitted to leaving his shift an hour and 10 minutes early without authorization."
"It does not appear that this contributed in any way to the person's death, as the home exceeded ICF [Intermediate Care Facilities] and DIDD staffing requirements," the report said.
DIDD spokeswoman Missy Marshall said this week that "at this point in time, no policies have been changed" in connection to Derrick's death.
Physical checks, as opposed to visual checks, on all home residents are one policy option, she said.
DIDD Commissioner James M. Henry said this week in a telephone interview that one person was placed on administrative leave as a result of Derrick's death.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH
Derrick was found dead in his room by a home employee, a Greene County Sheriff's Department report said.
The temperature in the room where Derrick died seemed extremely warm, a report by a sheriff's deputy said.
"Upon entering the room around 6:40 a.m., I immediately felt the heat inside," the report said.
An employee who found Derrick noted the "extreme heat" in the room when his body was found, the report said.
A separate investigation into the death by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is incomplete.
Other elements of the DIDD investigation are continuing, Marshall said.
"Autopsy results are pending so the cause of death is not known at this time. DIDD has fully cooperated with the medical examiner's office, the (TBI), local law enforcement and reported the death to the Department of Health per ICF regulations," the investigation report summary states.
TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in late January the Derrick death investigation remains open.
"We are waiting for the cause of death and final autopsy report from the medical examiner's office, as well as reports on evidence we have submitted to laboratories before the investigation will be completed," Helm said.
'THINK WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED'
Because Derrick preferred that his room not be entered, a visual check on his condition was done as a matter of routine.
"We did a visual check. That's why we couldn't detect that his room was hot," Henry said.
"We think we know what happened, but until it is confirmed, it would be foolish to say," he said.
There are 13 community homes operating in Greene County, and three more under construction.
Each one houses four residents and is an ICF designed for intellectually disabled clients. Most of the residents have other health-related issues.
The full DIDD report will be released in the near future.
The summary outlines actions taken after Derrick's death "to ensure the safety of those persons residing at the East Tennessee Homes."
* The three remaining persons who resided in the home where the death occurred were relocated temporarily to Greene Valley Developmental Center (GVDC) until the heating system could be evaluated for safety. Clinical supports were provided to ensure a smooth transition to their temporary residence.
* Thermometers were placed in all bedrooms of the homes by the afternoon of Derrick's death.
* Assessments by heat/air professionals began on site by 4:15 p.m. the day the death occurred.
* Information was shared about the Employee Assistance Program with staff for grief counseling, should they choose to participate.
* An independent vendor was contacted to evaluate the issues with the heating system in the home.
* DIDD purchased thermometers for all homes built during the recent phase of construction. While there have been no similar issues in the other homes, the plan will be extended to include all East Tennessee Community Homes.
* DIDD continues to conduct room-temperature readings with infra-red guns every 15 minutes in the eight homes recently constructed that have the same HVAC systems.
* DIDD provided instructions to staff on how to properly take room temperature readings, and a form for documentation of readings.
* DIDD provided instructions to staff on what to do if temperatures reach 80 degrees in any bedroom.