Sunland staff being investigated for alleged abuse
By Morgan Carlson
Published: May 18, 2011

The Sunland Center in Marianna was put on notice by the federal government that the center’s eligibility for
participation in the Medicaid program could be cancelled.

Melanie Etters, the spokesperson for the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities which oversees Sunland, said
the center is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Florida Agency for Health Care
Administration to resolve the issue.

Etters said a staff person at Sunland allegedly struck a resident on March 10 with her hand, like a “slap to the top of
the head.” Two other staff persons saw the alleged abuse, but didn’t report it to their supervisor until the next day.

This is against Sunland policy, Etters said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave notice that effective May 20 it would not make payments for
services to clients at Sunland because the facility “has not met the requirements for participation in the Medicaid

Lee Millman, spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said there are conditions for
participation for facilities that treat people with Medicare coverage, which basically comes down to requiring the
delivery of quality of health care in a safe environment. If there is a deficiency in any of the areas, there will be a
survey of the facility, which could result in a notice of termination of coverage.

The facility has a chance to make corrections before the effective date of the termination, and an unplanned visit
will be done to make sure a problem has been remedied, Millman said.

Sunland and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities submitted a corrective action plan to the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services to address this issue and resolve it, Etters said.

“Obviously, we’re extremely concerned when any type of alleged abuse occurs,” Etters said.

Sunland and all other Agency for Persons with Disabilities centers have a policy where staff are required to
immediately notify an abuse hotline if abuse is suspected.

“The staff clearly did not follow our policies,” Etters said.

The Florida Department of Children and Families Adult Protective Services has an ongoing investigation into the
March incident at Sunland. If the alleged abuse is confirmed, that staff person will be terminated, Etters said.

There will also be an internal investigation and “appropriate disciplinary action will be taken and could include
termination,” Etters said.

One of the staff members who delayed reporting the alleged abuse has resigned from Sunland. The other two staff
members involved are on paid administrative leave and will be called before administrative hearings, Etters said.

Jeffery Egelston, the superintendent at Sunland, resigned May 5 after being in the position for one year. Sandy
Koon, the former acting superintendent at the Chattahoochee Mentally Retarded Defendant Program, is now the
interim superintendent at the facility.