UPDATED Friday, July 26, 2013 --- 3:15 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
Workplace safety officials are now investigating the Dungarvin home and reports of staff injuries.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration launched their examination Thursday at the request of the Baraboo Police Dept., which asked for an investigation in May.
Area Director Kim Stille tells NBC 15 the investigation, which she hopes to complete in a few weeks, will likely include a visit to the facility as well as meetings with the employer and other interviews.
Baraboo Police say at least ten staff members have been sent to the hospital by a violent occupant who moved in February. Stille says OSHA has a six month statute of limitations, which means it does not investigate safety concerns prior to that window. Documents obtained by NBC 15 show the reported incidents began February 11 when the man hit and bit staff and broke a window in a struggle with his caretakers. That incident, and others since, would fall within the six month time frame.
Baraboo Police are continuing to work with state legislators in pursuit of a process where similar facilities would need state licensing or certification oversight.
POSTED Thursday, July 18, 2013 --- 11:45 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
Neighbors are wondering why a violent felon is locked in a Baraboo home and fear he might escape.
The home has fortified windows, a padded cell and doors that lock from both sides. Staff carry panic buttons and wear bite sleeves, but since the man was moved to the facility in February at least ten staff members have suffered injuries in altercations. Police reports indicate employees sustained broken bones, bites, scratches and other injuries trying to contain the man.
"If we have ten incidents where this individual has sent people to the hospital, how many times has he been injured?" asked Baraboo Police Department Lt. Rob Sinden. His team has increased patrols in the area and is even drafting a crisis plan should the man break free.
The home is run by Dungarvin, Inc. In Wisconsin the group says they currently care for more than 200 people with disabilities. Sinden says the 26-year-old man is a ward of the state, meaning he has a court-appointed guardian helping determine his placement. Dungarvin State Director Julie Josephitis tells NBC 15 a guardian might be able to ask for a different placement.
Many nearby residents only found out about the home's new occupant when a former Dungarvin employee passed out fliers across the neighborhood. Particularly concerning to some are Dungarvin's plans to build a fenced-in outdoor space for the man to use, just feet from homes with children.
"It's a really quiet neighborhood," said Jason Hobler, whose home borders the facility. "We enjoy the peace and for something like this to pop up it's disturbing. We don't know how we should protect ourselves."
Jason and his wife Holly say they no longer let their 6-year-old son outside without supervision. Police share their fear about the possible outdoor space.
"By ordinance the fence can only be so big," said Lt. Sinden. "Our fences that are built in Baraboo are not designed to house prisoners."
Care Wisconsin First, Inc. is the state contractor responsible for hiring Dungarvin. Staff declined to answer specific questions from NBC 15 about the Baraboo home or why that particular residential placement was chosen instead of alternatives.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore said in a letter to legislators that the state pays Care Wisconsin $3,432.43 per month per member, but resources committed to each individual can vary. The man in Baraboo is watched by at least four staff members 24 hours per day.
Prompted by concerned neighbors, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) are wondering why the state does not require licenses for violent felons like the man in Baraboo and whether an alternative placement would be safer for the man and his neighbors.
"Any time you can get someone with disabilities into a community setting, that's the best thing for everybody, it's a win-win for everybody," said Erpenbach. "In this particular situation with the violent nature of this individual, and I can't stress this enough this individual requires four staff members within this house dressed in kevlar so they are not harmed to deal with this particular individual, there might be a better way to deal with the whole situation."
Josephitis says the home currently has two residents. Lt. Sinden, who has toured the facility, says it is sparsely furnished with a locking cell in its interior. He says many of the altercations begin when the man is assigned a "time-out" in the padded room. Reports and staff indicate the man has broken doors and windows and sometimes maneuvers behind staff in apparent attempts to try and strangle them.
Dungarvin instructs staff to call a manager or supervisor and ask permission before calling police.