Inadequately trained and unqualified employees at Forest Haven are required to give medicine to mentally retarded persons in violation of District and federal laws, according to a complaint by the national president of the workers' union to Mayor Walter E. Washington.
Dispensation of drugs by counselors and nursing assistants who are not properly trained is "serious and potentially dangerous," Kenneth T. Blaylock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees said in a Dec. 13 letter to the mayor.
Only doctors, licensed nurses of persons with properly accredited training are allowed to administer medicine under District and federal regulations, Blaylock wrote.
Use of inappropriate personnel to give drugs is especially risky at Forest Haven, the city's home of the mentally retarded, a former counselor at the facility said.
"The medications given are quite strong and could be dangerous. Many are controlled substances such as phenobartal" (a sedative used to control spasms), said the former counselor, who asked not to be named.
He said a counselor often has to give medicine to over 100 persons three or four times a day as part of his regular duties, but has "no protection, no insurance or malpractive coverage," in the event of a mishap.
Last August, Department of Human Resources officials proposed a bill that would legalize the practice at Forest Haven and other city facilities of permitting workers other than doctors and nurses to give medicine. That bill, proposed as an emergency measure, is still under review by the corporation counsel, the mayor's legislative assistant said.
Blaylock asked the mayor for an immediate review of the practice and "rigorous" enforcement of the law.
In an answering letter dated Dec. 20, the mayor told Blaylock that the has called for a report on the matter from acting DHR director Albert P. Russo.