State denies federal accusations about center

St. Louis – Missouri's Department of Mental Health is disputing a federal report that calls one of its St. Louis-area facilities unsafe.

The US Department of Justice report says the Northwest Habilitation Center in Overland violates the constitutional rights of its residents. It says the center did not review incidents like falls in a timely manner. The center was also accused of being too highly dependent on restraints.

Specifically, the report accuses a staffer of choking a resident with a drawstring. The report also says the Department of Mental Health ordered a patient's toe amputated without getting consent.

The state calls the report sensational and misleading. Keith Shafer is the director of the Department of Mental Health. He says more work needs to be done at the Center, where two residents died within six months.

"We can have good discussions about the need for improving quality in our facilities," Shafer says. "I'm very good with that, I'm very happy to have those conversations. We don't need a context created that demoralizes people and indicates that we've had sensationally bad things happens at Northwest related to the incidents cited here because it's just not true."

Shafer says documents will prove that the allegations are false.

The Department of Justice would not comment on the allegations because of the ongoing investigation.