WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement with the state of New Mexico concerning civil rights violations at the Ft. Bayard Medical Center and Nursing Home in Bayard, N.M. Ft. Bayard is a state-owned nursing home serving approximately 170 residents. One unit at the nursing home is dedicated to serving veterans. Pending court approval, the reform required by the agreement will ensure that nursing home residents will be provided adequate medical and nursing care and protected from harm.
“The agreement establishes systems to ensure that nursing home residents under the care of the state will receive adequate services to meet their needs,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the efforts and leadership of state officials in working with the Department to improve care to Ft. Bayard residents.”
The Justice Department’s investigation of Ft. Bayard uncovered numerous civil rights violations. Medical and nursing care departed substantially from generally accepted professional standards. For example, the Justice Department found that care at the nursing home was so deficient that it actually contributed to the deaths of Ft. Bayard residents. The Justice Department also found instances where medication was used so dangerously that the medication contributed to the deaths of residents. Further, the nursing home staff often failed to recognize and respond to significant changes in a resident’s health until the resident was in serious distress. New Mexico has agreed to address and correct all of the violations identified by the Department. The Justice Department conducted its investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). This statute authorizes the Attorney General to investigate and root out systemic deficiencies in care such as those found at Ft. Bayard.
The Civil Rights Division has successfully resolved similar investigations in other nursing homes in Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The Division has open investigations of nursing homes in California, Maryland, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Department of Justice’s CRIPA enforcement effort reaches beyond nursing homes. Since 2001, the Department of Justice has opened 71 similar investigations into the terms and conditions of confinement at mental health facilities, residences for persons with developmental disabilities, juvenile justice facilities, jails and prisons.
More information about the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html.