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.