For Immediate Release For More Information Contact:
February 20, 2006 Kelly Kennedy 608/266-7876
MADISON – Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced today that Creative Stepping Stones, Inc., a Milwaukee County business that operated a community based residential facility called The Summit Place, 6526 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, in which a resident choked to death in 2004, has been convicted in connection with the death of the resident. The corporation has been ordered by the court to pay approximately $108,000 for fines and restitution and has been placed on court ordered probation.
“The care of vulnerable residents in care facilities is a matter of critical trust,” Lautenschlager said. “As this tragic case shows, reckless disregard for basic safety can be a matter of life and death.”
Lautenschlager said that representatives of Creative Stepping Stones, Inc., appeared Monday, February 20, 2006 before Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher and entered a plea of no contest to one felony count of reckless injury.
The Court withheld sentence and placed the corporation on probation for a period of six months. As a condition of probation, Creative Stepping Stones must pay a fine of $25,000. The corporation must also pay $8,027.13 to the victim’s sole surviving heir to cover funeral expenses, and must also comply with compliance orders issued by the Department of Health and Family Services. As part of that proceeding, Creative Stepping Stones has agreed to sell the business or close the facility. As part of its plea and sentence, Creative Stepping Stones will be required to pay the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care, $75,000, the purpose of which is to be used to further and expand its critical Ombudsman program which attempts to ensure quality care standards at all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Wisconsin. Currently the program’s resources are limited to utilizing trained volunteers in only 30% of state facilities.
Creative Stepping Stones operates The Summit Place, a community based residential facility on Bluemound Road in Milwaukee, and another facility, East View Terrace, located at 1904 East Belleview Place, Milwaukee.
“This company has one of the worst track records of resident care in the state,” Lautenschlager said. “State investigators issued 85 complaints against the company’s two facilities since 1998. That’s astronomical compared to the average one complaint annually for any three separate facilities statewide.”
According to the Department of Justice’s charging document, a 90-year-old resident of The Summit Place had been prescribed a special diet that required her food to be cut into small pieces. On January 10, 2004, the resident was not provided a properly prepared soft food meal, but was given a meal consisting of solid foods: sliced ham, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise between two pieces of white bread and a dish of canned peaches. The patient choked and died.
An autopsy revealed a 5 cm. piece of meat became lodged in the resident’s trachea and caused her death by choking.
An investigation by the Department of Justice revealed that staff on duty that night at The Summit Place were unsupervised, poorly trained and had not been told the resident needed this special diet. The State’s investigation of wrongdoing at the corporation’s facilities was assisted by staff from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Frank Remington.