Two federal agencies have opened an investigation into the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to determine if it violated the rights of its residents by failing to provide adequate medical care during the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Thursday, 32 veterans had died at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, according to NBC affiliate WWLP. Twenty-eight of those victims tested positive for COVID-19 while four tested negative.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts announced their joint investigation Friday.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced earlier this week that her office was looking into the situation, and Gov. Charlie Baker previously announced that he had hired an independent lawyer to investigate the facility.
The deaths resulted in Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the facility, being placed on paid administrative leave. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has accused Walsh of failing to report the deaths to authorities in timely fashion, and says Walsh and Francisco Urena, the secretary of Veterans’ Services, failed to act with urgency to the situation.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the veterans who passed away,” said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for civil rights. “We owe it to the veterans, their families, and the public to investigate the facts, determine what happened, ensure compliance with the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and protect those veterans who continue to reside at the Soldiers’ Home.”
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“It would be difficult to overstate our obligation to the health and well-being of elderly and disabled military veterans and, by extension, to their families. The federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act specifically protects the rights of those confined in state facilities like the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” added U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “We will aggressively investigate recent events at the Home and, as needed, require the Commonwealth to adopt reforms to ensure patient safety in the future. My condolences to the families of those veterans who died while in the Home’s care; we will get to the bottom of what happened here.”
Residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and their families are encouraged to call 1-888-221-6023 or email USAMA.firstname.lastname@example.org.