Canyon County

Idaho pays to settle lawsuit over disabled man's death

The Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) in Nampa provides residential care to people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. It is run by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) in Nampa provides residential care to people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. It is run by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Idaho Statesman file

The state of Idaho has agreed to pay $10,000 to the mother of a 24-year-old man who died after being cared for at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center in Nampa.

The May 24 settlement ended a lawsuit that began in August 2017. Grace Rodriguez, mother of Moses Rodriguez, claimed that her son was neglected in the facility.

SWITC is a state-run center that treats residents who have developmental delays and mental illnesses, as well as some serious health conditions.

Moses Rodriguez died at a Boise hospital in 2015, one week after he left SWITC's care.

Rodriguez, who had autism and severe epilepsy, had the mental capacity of a child between the ages of 3 and 4, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed that he was hospitalized three times for uncontrolled seizures while in SWITC's care. It also alleged that SWITC staff changed his medications without asking his neurologist.

Grace Rodriguez claimed that Health and Welfare also filed to commit Moses without telling her and without permission. She had legal guardianship and conservatorship over her son since May 2009, the lawsuit stated.

Rodriguez was placed in SWITC's care after he and his mother were evicted from their home. He had escaped from a Medicaid-paid, in-home caretaker and went to a neighbor's home, where he disrobed, according to the lawsuit. Their landlord evicted the pair, and the state then came and took Moses Rodriguez to SWITC, the lawsuit said.

Rodriguez's neurologist had recommended that he be returned to his mother's care, Grace Rodriguez claimed.

Breck Seiniger Jr., Rodriguez’s attorney, said Tuesday that he wasn't able to expand further on the settlement. The state on Wednesday verified the settlement's amount and said that it was paid out by the Office of Risk Management.

SWITC has seen a slew of allegations over the past two years, including questions about the death of another resident in August 2017. The center has also faced police investigations and complaints of psychological and physical abuse.

Starting last fall, state inspectors threatened three times in six months to strip the center's ability to take Medicaid patients unless it fixed problems that reportedly posed an immediate threat to residents.

In June, a Health and Welfare spokesman said department Director Russ Barron was forming an advisory board for SWITC in response to the center's issues.

As of Wednesday, that board's proposed bylaws were being reviewed, said spokesman Chris Smith.

"Once those are approved, the process of selecting members and setting the first meeting of the advisory board will start," Smith said.

Ruth Brown: 208-377-6207, @RuthBrownNews
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