Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - The number of group homes that cater to people with disabilities has been on the rise the past 30 years.
While most of those individuals are welcome additions to any neighborhood, some present a serious danger to themselves, their caregivers, and potentially their neighbors.
“On my head boom,” said Napolean Nyenwoe, describing the day he said he was attacked back in March. “I passed out. I dropped.”
Nyenwoe was badly beaten while working as a caretaker at a community living home.
The house, located in a quiet Buechel neighborhood, is part of a community care program for people with disabilities.
Nyenwoe was allegedly struck in the head with a coffee table by the man he cared for, Laud Mensah.
“I felt his teeth penetrated my skull,” said Nyenwoe. “He grabbed me by my lower lip. He started biting me. I mean he ate me up.”
Now Nyenwoe is seeing a neurologist for headaches that won't go away and will need three teeth replaced.
Court records indicate that Mensah’s mother indicated that Mensah has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
We discovered Mensah has also been previously arrested for assaults.
His own mother took out a protection order against him 9 years ago after she said he choked and hit her.
“He could to anything to anybody. Anything to anybody,” Nyenwoe said. “The neighbors, it could be anybody.”
Police were called to the home where Mensah lived and Nyenwoe worked 15 times in past year and a half.
In one case, a resident allegedly slashed a caregiver's tires with a butcher knife.
In two other cases, a resident was reported missing.
“Obviously, we were worried enough to call police and report him as a missing person. We have protocols in place and systems when something like that happens. We address it immediately,” said Nel Taylor, the Spokesperson for ResCare, which operates the home where the attack occurred.
“Our priorities are the safety of the individuals, the staff and the neighbors,” Taylor said, indicating that all staff members are extensively trained for that type of situation and all incidents are reported to the company and the state.
The vast majority of group home residents in Kentucky have no violent tendencies. In fact, they blend into neighborhoods so well; most other residents don't even know they're there.
Another group home in a quiet East Louisville neighborhood serves three men with developmental disabilities.
No problems have been reported here.
Stephen Zaricki is the director of Community Living, Inc. which operates that home.
He is also President of the Kentucky Association of Private Providers, which represents dozens of non-profit and for-profit companies that operate homes throughout the Commonwealth.
“There are literally hundreds of folks that have come out of institutions or hospitals and now live in neighborhoods just like this across the street and down the road,” Zaricki said.
Thousands of people depend on community care statewide.
Widespread deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities began in the 1960’s and has increased substantially since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that patients had to be served in the “least restrictive environment” possible.
Tony Heninger thrives in a neighborhood setting.
He and the two other residents of the Community Living enjoy a family-like living arrangement and frequent outings.
His brother Rick Heninger says it's an ideal situation.
“You see nothing by love from them. All they want to do is be loved,” Rick Heninger said.
“Our guys enjoy being involved in the community, including their neighborhood,” said Claire Keultjes, who is one of the direct caregivers who works at the home.
“80 to 90 percent of these people we really relate to,” said Napolean Nyenwoe. “We do things together with them and they feel comfortable with us and you feel comfortable with them.”
But the small percentage with problem behavior can be the source of major concern in a neighborhood.
A neighbor in a South Louisville subdivision in which two group homes operate contacted WHAS11 after she said residents of a community care home repeatedly made inappropriate remarks toward her pre-teen daughter.
Through an Open Records request, we learned there were 39 trouble calls from one of the homes to police in just 6 months.
On one occasion, two staff members were assaulted by a man who a police report indicates "stated he wanted to go back to jail".
Nine times, residents were reported missing.
We observed a resident of a second home in the same neighborhood left unattended for more than half an hour, as school buses drop off children nearby.
One factor affecting treatment plans is money.
Institutionalization costs up to three times more per patient per day than the costs of community care.
“All of these folks are funded through tax dollars and through Medicaid,” said Nel Taylor. “Part of our job is to make sure that we are good stewards of those dollars.”
Laud Mensah is currently awaiting a psychological exam to determine if he's fit to stand trial.
If he's released, he may get another chance at neighborhood life.
“Our goal is not to give up on a person,” said Taylor.
Napolean Nyenwoe worries what would happen if Mensah goes missing.
“Just like losing a bulldog in the community, because he's unpredictable. Let me be very honest with you,” Nyenwoe said.
ResCare indicates the incident in March was one of the most serious ones the company has dealt with during 30 years in business.
The Louisville-based company operates in 43 states and has over 46,000 employees.