WELCH, W.Va. — A McDowell County woman said she found out this week her son was one of the young people abused at the Potomac Center, a site for kids and teenagers with developmental disabilities and behavioral issues, in Hampshire County.

Melissa Green said she was initially told Patrick, 17, who has autism and epilepsy, was not one of the victims of the abuse State Police troopers have been investigating since mid-January.  However, she and her husband were notified Wednesday that Patrick had, in fact, been subjected to two incidents of abuse and one incident of neglect at the Potomac Center.

“It was horror, devastation.  My husband who does not cry, he just broke down,” Green said of their reaction to the news.  “We feel like we’ve been punched in the gut because our son was doing so well and he did come back a changed boy.  He did come back changed for the better.”

Three people at the Romney facility have been fired, so far, in connection with, what one official described as, “demeaning” and “degrading” acts involving the kids.  Pictures of the acts may have been sent to others via Snapchat, a social media app service that automatically deletes any sent photos once they’re viewed.

Green said she was told, at one point, her son was having an autistic behavior and a worker kicked him.  Another time, she said, Patrick was provoked into having an autistic behavior so he could be restrained.  In the neglect incident, Green said Patrick was not monitored in the shower, as required, and had a seizure which resulted in severe cuts and bruises.

In all, two dozen children who were part of the Potomac Center’s Intensive Training Program were moved from the site after managers at the Potomac Center reported the abuse to officials with the state Department of Health and Human Resources.  The State Police investigation launched soon after that.

The Intensive Training Program, which is said to be unique in West Virginia, is a six-month to 24-month residential program for kids between the ages of five and 17 who have developmental disabilities and behavioral issues.

Green said Patrick had made remarkable progress at the Potomac Center.  “We put great trust into these people.  They were our last resort and, let me just say, there are some very good workers there and that’s why I’m so shocked, because I thought everybody was so good,” she said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

At this point, Patrick is home in Welch and Green said she and her husband are trying to determine the next step for their son.

Potomac Center officials have been in discussions with DHHR officials this week about ways to fully reopen the Romney site.  Last month, Potomac Center CEO Rich Harshbarger addressed the ongoing investigation in a statement.  “I am appalled and saddened that the actions of a very few have affected so many,” he said.

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  • millie smith

    I'm wondering here if the other parents know that some of those 24 children were foster children that have no other choice but to go back to this nitemare.My grandson was a foster child that was treated and still being treated as a throw away tool for the centers best interest not the child.As I have been told in a written letter that this center is th only place they have to put him.I was not aware that W V had no other centers to put these kids.Well in my grandsons case it was jail untel they reopen.Which is no place for a child of his condition.He was housed in the hospital jail tell this place reopened.Any one els see a problem with that??????????

  • Tina Conley

    My son was also abused at the Potomac center. He was processor abused and sexualy abused. The woman who abused him is in fact now in jail for killing her husband. When they removed my son from the Potomac center in February he was sent to rem. That night he was placed in jail. He was in jail three separate times. He stayed in jail without his medication from Feb until the center opened back up. He is currently back at the Potomac center. How they could put him in jail is so wrong. Now that he's back at the center they will not allow me to talk to him. They say he has to readjust first. That was almost a month ago. I'm so sick from this. How they can put him back in a place where he was abused. Mandy O'Hara had my son so much in her control it is hard to say what all she has done to him.

  • Natalie C

    I have worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities for 36 years - 9 in Residential and 26 in Case Management in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was asked to help a friend of a family that was being taken to court by Potomac Center. I did not know anything about the issues with the children's facilities until a co-worker of mine mentioned it to me. I had been checking into information on PC and WVDHHR. Boy did I get an eye full this evening when I "Googled" Potomac Center and dug a little deeper. I really have to question their mission and quality of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

  • Honest

    Sometimes they were removed the be cleaned and regretably this one was not there at that time

  • Sally Foster

    And what does DS stand for? Are you afraid to give your own name?

  • Millie Smith

    My 19 year old grandson was court ordered to this center and has been put in shelters as we are just finding out about in the pass week.He is getting no schooling this pass month.He also ended up in jail for going off at this shelter he was put in.He keeps telling us he is going to prison.We love him very much/He also told us he seen one of the staff while he was in jail that had kill her husband.He has told us this woman is 37 and is in love with him.I really need to get to the botton of this I need to know if he is going to get help.

    • SAD

      I know who you are speaking of. DC. The sad thing is the Center could care less. All they are worried about is opening the Center back up and getting money. The children are the ones who are suffering. It's sad to see what's going on. Upper Management have blinders on. They can't see they made a mistake of firing a former employee and putting someone with a lesser degree in. Look what you have done and your still riding around in the cars the Center bought you while innocent people are without jobs. IT IS WHAT IT IS!

      • Millie Smith

        Yes DC I'm having night mares about this I want to help him.But they wont let me.My heart is breaking for this child.

  • Just the Facts

    This is so sad and heart breaking. The purpose of the Potomac Center is to train and help individuals with developmental disabilities. As DS has stated things happen that is a horrible response. You have failed to meet your purpose. I stated this in a previous response. When you have employees with this mind set it has to come from somewhere. I believe the problem stems from upper management. Upper Management has many short comings that hinder them from doing their jobs well. It is the lack of compassion, experience, and most of all commitment . Rick, Kim, and Karen see the kids they serve as dollar signs and a way to get their picture in the newspaper.

    • Millie Smith

      Since this happen my grandson DC has been put in jail.I seen his picture on the Potomac jail site didn't this center have money to where they could afford to cut his hair.?This is so wrong from what happen at the center to a jail cell.In his mind their was a person he missed at the center that he wanted to see again.He acted up just to go to jail to see this person.I don't think e understands what is really going on.

      • SAD

        You are 100 percent right. He really does not understand consequences. In his mind it is like a movie and he would never go to jail. All the Center is worried about getting opened up for the money. Not the children. The center does not pay for haircuts. They have to use their own money.

        • now your getting it

          as an ex employee i know the center doesn't even pay for day trips or meals at restaurants this comes out of the childs allowance it shows how much they honestly do not care and they only give the kids 30 dollars to get them something for there birthday and the price of the cake comes out of the 30 dollars after that there isnt much left for a present maybe if the kids were not paying for rick and kims car and there gas cards that are supposed to be for center use they would have alot more rick and kim should be put in front of a firing squad they are evil and do not care about the children they only come around to yell at staff never to interact with the children YOU SHOULD BOTH BE ASHAMED they both play it very well to the press but when the newspaper and stuff isnt there its all about the money

  • DS

    I feel this is just blown out of proportion. I work at the Center, things happen and people need to get over it. We are working on some plans and after all you were not forced to send or keep your son at the Potomac Center.

    • Sally Foster

      I feel that you have lots to say hiding behind initials. Why name other names but not your own? All that aside, you must not have children if you feel this is blown out of proportion. These are things that don't just happen! They should never ever happen. I have known Melissa for years & I know she wasn't forced to send her son there but she made the best possible choice for her son and family. You obviously don't know her.

      I hope you find another job because you are not the sort of person who should ever work with children or patients in any form or fashion.

    • Pamela J Hall

      Evidently they have been working on things for a long, long time. My daughter was there in 1994 and at that time, people from the most violent houses were allowed to go back and forth to other houses without being missed. The daughter whose bed my daughter took, left The Potomac Center in a coma from being shoved through a window by another client. I was working 6 days a week but still drove up there all but two weekends for an entire year and that was due to bad weather and it being impossible to make the trip. My daughter shared a room with another girl and I arrived one day to find her needing a bath. After I got her out of the shower I was drying her off with my back to their toilet. I heard loud grunting sounds coming from the bathroom. I turned around and there was a forty-something man with a long beard using her toilet. He had not even been missed from his house. Needless to say, I removed my daughter from these circumstances. She was also shoved to the floor right in front of me by the same client who had shoved the little girl through a window. I would bring my daughter home for the weekend and when I returned there would be one person there, usually a teenager, to watch over 6 clients. That was definitely not the correct protocol. I saw one other set of parents during those 50 weeks that I visited her. If there is no one to check on them, they do whatever they please. Any staff that told me the truth when asked about something, was promptly removed. I know there is a need for a place to care for these people, but I hope they close it forever. Twenty years later and the same old neglect and abuse going on. The government pays good money for these people to be cared for but like everywhere else, the people in the offices get most of it and the people who do the work with the clients are paid minimum wage if they are lucky.

      • Honest

        I did work there in 1994 until they were closed and am one of the people who are cleared to return to work. You must be thinking of another facility because this has not happened at The Potomac Center in Romney. I have been there since 1993.
        No disrespect intended.

      • Your wrong

        Pam Hall with due respect why come on here and tell a lie. No kid EVERY left in a coma. Yes there are things that happen but that there did not happen.

    • Caring

      DS, I hope your comment was written by someone as a joke, and that you do not work at Potomac Center. Because Potomac Center's duty is to serve people. Serve them excellent services in a safe environment that is free of neglect and abuse. A parent or guardian should be able to have their child receive those, especially when taxpayer funding is involved. Do us all a favor - if you do work at Potomac Center, find another job.

  • mana

    That's why this case needs to go all the way to the U.S. AG!!

  • mana

    Mr. Holder!

    Paging Attorney General Eric Holder!!!

  • JT

    Where is the AG on this one, he should out there front and center! Oh, this concerns people not business profits.

  • rumors

    Not everyone is guilty and was involved.

    • millie

      Would one of those names be Mandy Oharo.My grandson has tod me all about her and what she did to him also one of the other staff.This is not over by a long shot.The ones that knew of this going on and did nothing to stop it are just as guilty as the ones that did it.

      • Honest

        Just wanted you to know hat Mandy is in jail for killing her husband!!!!

      • Sally Foster

        I agree with you Millie. Not reporting the abuse is just as bad. So DS, you are at the top of that list.

    • tim

      i would love to hear or you are pointing blame else where when you might be 2-3 that was fired

    • Caring

      And were these things you witnessed reported as required?

    • Debbie

      I certainly hope if you know for a fact that others are guilty that you realize you are just as guilty as they are if not worse if you knew about this and did nothing.

    • Me

      Well if u say u can name all these other people there that have done things like this then ur just as bad for just letting the things go when u seen them do it instead of reporting it

    • Easter Bunny

      Hey Santa, get a real name.

  • Vickie Kidd

    2-3 people fired??? fired??? really....just fired!!!! i want to know why they haven't been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law??? we as citizens demand these workers pay for this. this makes my blood boil!!

    • WhgFeeling

      I have no clue of the logistics in this matter but usually it takes a lot of time to build a case that would follow with a conviction. Charges may or may not be pending but I would rather seem the law enforcement do a through job and get a conviction rather than simply a charge and dismissed.