Woods Services' license revoked after death

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - August 5, 2010

Eight clients will be relocated from the shuttered building at Woods Services in Langhorne, a Department of Public Welfare spokesman said.

The agency revoked the company's license to operate the building. But the company operates several facilities in suburban Philadelphia that provide services to about 1,400 clients.

A veteran staff member, counselor Stacey Strauss, was charged this week with involuntary manslaughter and neglect for failing to remove 20-year-old Bryan Nevins from the van after an outing last month. Nevins died on July 24, when the local temperature reached 97 degrees.

Strauss was the only person arrested, but her lawyers say many co-workers share in the blame for Nevins' death.

A state spokesman suggested officials may share that view. "We have concerns beyond one individual's action or inaction," Public Welfare spokesman Michael Race said. "Basically, something broke down in the broader system of this facility, whether it is miscommunication or (something else)."

Woods Services expected to issue a statement later Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

However, the private, for-profit company has said it is saddened by Nevins' death and is fully cooperating with investigators.

Nevins and a triplet brother, both autistic, had previously been well cared for during their five years at the campus, their father has said. William Nevins, a retired detective from Oceanside, N.Y., said this week he wants Strauss convicted in his son's death.

Bryan Nevins' severe autism and intellectual disabilities led to a care plan that mandated close supervision, the state welfare agency said in the revocation notice issued Thursday.

He was supposed to remain within an employee's reach on outings and within sight on campus, the report said. Additionally, he was supposed to be observed hourly.

Yet his disappearance went unnoticed for more than four hours at his residence building after his small group returned from the outing to a nearby amusement park at 12:30 p.m. His body was found in the rear seat of the locked, parked van at 5:30 p.m.

The six-person group returned earlier than expected because Nevins was acting out at the park, a police report said.

Strauss insists she was responsible for only one client - not Nevins - and for driving the van, and she says a second counselor was responsible for the other three clients.

However, a supervisor told police Strauss had been assigned to watch Nevins.

Woods Services is licensed to hold nearly 900 residential clients. Some, like Nevins, are placed by school or welfare departments in other states. Nevins' family has since removed his brother from the facility.

There is no deadline for the closure of Nevins' building. Instead, state officials are focused on finding the most appropriate placements for the remaining eight clients, Race said.

Strauss, 40, of Philadelphia, had worked at Woods Services for about eight years. She was arrested Tuesday and later released on $50,000 bail. Her lawyer Gregory Pagano said the Bucks County prosecutor who decided to charge her does not have the expertise or resources to investigate the case. He agrees with state welfare officials that any culpability extends beyond his client.

"This is what we've been saying all along," Pagano said. "It's more than just her, and unfortunately she's been made out to be the scapegoat here."

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