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Worker accused of abusing patient at Nebraska's center for developmentally disabled residents

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BEATRICE, Nebraska — An employee at the Beatrice State Developmental Center has been accused of abusing a patient, less than a month after the federal government ended its oversight of the facility that houses and treats disabled residents.

Shawn Ebeling, of Diller, was charged with two felony counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult stemming from reports of incidents on Aug. 9 and Aug. 21, according to online court records. Details about the case have been sealed at the request of Gage County Attorney Roger Harris, who told the Beatrice Daily Sun newspaper (http://bit.ly/1O36l5j ) that he wanted to protect the identity of the patient.

Ebeling declined to comment about the case Monday. He referred questions to his attorney, who didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press. Ebeling, who was hired in September 2010 to provide patient care, has been suspended without pay, according to Nebraska Health and Human Services Department spokesman Russ Reno.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation found about 200 cases of neglect and abuse at the center between late 2006 and late 2007. Investigators discovered allegations that staff members shoved patients, called them names and played demeaning games.

In 2011, a state investigation uncovered fresh evidence that some staffers hit, slapped and choked the disabled patients. Sixteen staffers were suspended or fired, and five were convicted of criminal charges.

The center was put under federal oversight in 2008. A judge agreed to end that oversight on Aug. 3.

State Health and Human Services Department CEO Courtney Phillips said employees are trained in policies that guide treatment of patients and that require workers to immediately report instances of abuse.

"Even with that training, we're unable to always predict behavior," Phillips said in a news release. "Our policies and corresponding actions have been recognized by Department of Justice, and we don't believe this incident will have an impact."


Information from: Beatrice Sun, http://www.beatricedailysun.com

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