April 22, 2015 – (Pueblo, Colorado) The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) announced today that they are working collaboratively to investigate a series of reports received by each agency regarding significant care concerns and the treatment of individuals residing at the Pueblo Regional Center.
Recently, CDHS learned of allegations regarding the safety of clients at the Pueblo Regional Center. The Department took immediate action to ensure the health and safety of the Regional Center residents.
“The safety and well-being of the individuals entrusted to our care and the stability of our Regional Center system is paramount,” said Reggie Bicha, executive director, Colorado Department of Human Services. “Through our investigation we have identified allegations of physical abuse, verbal abuse and alleged unlawful sexual contact. Many of these instances appear to have been unreported or underreported.
“Effective immediately eight staff members, including those in leadership, management and care provider positions, have been placed on administrative leave with pay while we continue our investigation,” Bicha continued.
This is in addition to three staff who were placed on administrative leave with pay earlier in the investigation.
To ensure immediate continuity of care, we have appointed Teresa Bernal, former interim director of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, as the interim Director for the Pueblo Regional Center. In addition to Bernal, a team of professional staff and care providers are being brought in to ensure that the ongoing operations of the Regional Center are uninterrupted and maintain the high quality care the individuals, their parents and their guardians expect from the Regional Center.
CDHS is working with Regional Center staff to ensure they understand what is going on and encouraging them to assist with the investigation. A third-party agency has been hired to assist with the investigation, including interviewing each staff member at the Regional Center.
“Staff should feel comfortable talking with these professionals, and I encourage them to partake in this process to help us in ensuring the high standard of care the parents and guardians rely on us to provide,” added Bicha.
The safety and well-being of the individuals who call the Regional Center home is of paramount concern, and the integrity of the investigations by both CDHS and the Sheriff’s Office are integral to continuing the much needed services provided by the Regional Center.
“The allegations and concerns were of such a nature that we determined the need to review all of the interactions where the Sheriff’s Office was contacted regarding individuals at PRC,” said Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “We consider these individuals to be some of the most vulnerable in our community and we want to ensure they are well cared for and protected.”