After homicide, Disability Rights Ohio calls for action to end the use of dangerous restraints
May 22, 2014 / restraint
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner has determined that the death of 15-year-old Kenneth Barkley was a homicide caused by traumatic asphyxiation during a physical restraint used by staff of the group home where he was a resident. Barkley was living at a Berea group home operated by OhioGuidestone when an incident resulted in a staff member placing him in a "bear hug" restraint. Although this type of restraint is known to compress the chest and impede breathing, there are inadequate restrictions on the use of these restraints in private facilities.
Disability Rights Ohio urges Governor Kasich and the directors of all state agencies that regulate restraint--including the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which licenses the group home where this incident occurred--and members of the General Assembly to take action to end all use of dangerous restraints and fully implement a system of trauma-informed care in the state of Ohio. We offer condolences to Kenneth Barkley's family, and we commit to continuing to advocate for the statewide prohibition of restraints that threaten the lives of children and adults with disabilities in Ohio.
Unfortunately, this is not the first preventable death of this kind. In 2008, the physical restraint of 17-year-old Faith Finley resulted in her death from asphyxiation at Parmadale Institute. In August 2009, Governor Ted Strickland responded to this tragedy by issuing Executive Order 2009-13S, which banned prone restraint, limited the use of other physical restraints, and established the Ohio Policy Committee on Restraint and Seclusion. Governor Kasich continued this executive order in 2011, but little progress has been made in the elimination of these dangerous restraint techniques. Indeed, in February 2012 another individual with a developmental disability residing in a developmental center was restrained in a supine position and died three days later at a local hospital after being removed from life support.
Over the years, Disability Rights Ohio has strongly advocated for increased regulation of restraints, including the prohibition of restraints that restrict breathing. Tragically, the state agencies responsible for regulating these practices have not acted forcefully enough to protect the lives of children in private facilities. We hope that Kenneth Barkley's death will be the last restraint-related death in Ohio. It is critical that the state enforce rules against restraint and require training in alternative methods of de-escalating incidents, particularly methods of Trauma Informed Care. Trauma Informed Care recognizes the effects of trauma on an individual's behaviors and implements best practices to address those effects without re-traumatizing the individual through violence. Disability Rights Ohio believes that a shift from physical restraints to Trauma Informed Care will result in fewer injuries for individuals with disabilities and a safer work environment for direct care providers.