DENVER -- Parents and advocates for the disabled gathered at the state Capitol Friday hoping to get the attention of state leaders. They believe Colorado is experiencing a statewide crisis in disability services.
The call to action is urgent after a federal report showed rampant and disturbing allegations of abuse at the Pueblo Regional Center. Investigators found out that words like "die" and "kill" were scratched into the skin of residents. When staff members were questioned about the incident, they blamed paranormal activity.
Another allegation involved a resident performing a sex act on an employee in exchange for a can of soda.
Attorney Mari Newman represents the families of 17 residents at the center in Pueblo. She is currently is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the state.
"These are people who could not speak for themselves and had no ability or power to stop the mistreatment being inflicted upon them by the state of Colorado," said Newman. "It’s nothing short of outrageous."
Kathy Hartman's 22-year-old disabled son spent more than two years at the Wheat Ridge Regional Center. After her experience she said it's not a place she would tell anyone to send their child to.
"My thought was when he went to the regional center that we would maybe be in the highest and best place where we could really learn how to help him and instead there wasn’t that kind of support," said Hartman.
The group wants to see a change in the culture when it comes to caring for the disabled. They also want the state to impose criminal and civil penalties, give protections to whistleblowers, and establish a hotline to report any concerns.