A Pennsylvania senior living community is operating on a provisional license and two now former administrators are facing multiple felony charges after it was found that the administrators did not report the alleged sexual abuse of residents.
The Landing of Southampton former General Manager Ashley Harker and former Director of Health and Wellness Joy Alfonsi are charged with neglect of a care-dependent person, recklessly endangering another person, criminal conspiracy and failure to report abuse.
The charges stem from reports of sexual abuse committed by a male resident with dementia against three female residents who also have dementia diagnoses. All involved residents lived in the community’s memory care unit. The community also offers independent living and personal care.
Leisure Care Vice President of Operations Michael Juno told McKnight’s Senior Living that Harker and Alfonsi no longer are employed at the community and “separated employment in October 2021, as soon as the relevant conduct was discovered.”
Juno said the company “remains committed to holding our community to the highest standards of safe, quality care.”
“The trust of our residents, their families and our staff is of vital importance to us, which is why we took immediate action to conduct a thorough investigation and transition to a new management team in October 2021,” he said. “We continue to work in close coordination with state and local authorities, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Health, to ensure all of our residents continue to experience the exceptional care they deserve and expect.”
According to a press release from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, staff members at the Bucks County, PA, community reported the three separate incidents of sexual abuse in July 2021. Alfonsi and Harker allegedly assured staff that they would handle the situation and advised witnesses not to document or report the incidents.
Neither administrator reported the alleged incidents of abuse to law enforcement, the state Department of Aging’s Adult Protective Services Division or the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services as required by law, however, the attorney general’s office said.
Several employees ultimately made anonymous reports to protective services personnel after realizing that management did not report the incidents. Division workers substantiated the abuse allegations and mandated that the male resident be placed on one-to-one supervision until he was relocated to another facility.
Following its investigation, the DHS cited The Landing with several regulatory violations, including abuse, failing to report suspected abuse to protective services, failing to notify family of suspected abuse and denying DHS access to resident records. As a result of those violations, the DHS revoked The Landing’s certificate of compliance on April 12 and placed the facility on a provisional license through Oct. 12. The Landing must create and implement a plan to correct the violations or face revocation of the provisional license as well.
Charges were filed after an investigation by the Upper Southampton Township Police Department. Charging documents indicate that the two former employees “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly endangering the welfare of multiple care dependent persons,” and that their conduct “placed multiple people in danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
According to findings from the 47th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, Harker and Alfonsi “made a conscious decision” not to report the abuse, failed to conduct an internal investigation, failed to properly docment the incidents of sexual abuse, and failed to notify the residents’ family members or designated representatives of the sexual abuse.
“To the contrary, the grand jury found that Harker and Alfonsi actively took steps to minimize and conceal the incidents of sexual abuse, endangering The Landing’s other care-dependent residents of enduring the same fate,” the grand jury document reads.
Shapiro said that failure to immediately report the first allegation of abuse allowed the male resident to remain the memory care unit with insufficient safeguards, where he continued to sexually abuse female residents.
‘The defendants were responsible for the safety and well-being of the residents in their care, but instead of protecting their residents, they sought to cover up incidents of sexual abuse of residents that occurred under their watch,” Shapiro said. “Had they followed through on the mandated reporting required by law, these assaults would have been prevented.”