Suit accuses ENMRSH of exploiting disabled

A lawsuit filed against ENMRSH last month alleges developmentally disabled clients under the agency's care were forced to sleep outside as punishment and live in rodent or roach-infested homes in Clovis.

Among other charges in the lawsuit:

  • One challenged client ballooned to more than 500 pounds for lack of adequate care and supervision, was diabetic and oozing fluids from open and untreated sores. The same client was forced to give herself insulin shots and measure her own daily blood sugar though she wasn't mentally capable of doing so.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks

ENMRSH, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation that provides services to disabled and handicapped clients in a five county region of Eastern New Mexico, according to its website.

• Two other clients were "forced to live like homeless people." When one was admitted to Plains Regional Medical Center, he was weak, disorientated diagnosed as malnourished and told physicians he had not eaten for several days.

The charges are detailed in a 100-page lawsuit filed in First Judicial District Court, Santa Fe, accusing ENMRSH of funneling millions in government funding into its bank account while exploiting at least the five developmentally disabled clients in Clovis listed as plaintiffs. The clients, not named, are described as men and women in their 50s and 60s.

The lawsuit also alleges ENMRSH lists assets of $13.7 million and paid former CEO Robert Spencer more than $900,000 compensation one year.

Spencer didn't respond to phone calls seeking response.

ENMRSH President and CEO Damian Houfek also failed to return multiple phone calls, but did release a statement by email:

"The case is in litigation and is being handled by our attorneys. We will defend ourselves vigorously and believe we will be vindicated in the end."

Albuquerque attorney Peter Cubra represents the unnamed developmentally disabled clients and is an advocate of the handicapped. Cubra said it was unimaginable that any non-profit agency serving the disabled could amass millions of dollars in assets. He said most such agencies in the state are barely breaking even.

"I'm very familiar with many provider agencies," said Cubra, who also serves as president of Albuquerque-based Advocacy Inc. "I don't know of any others that have been able to sock away millions of dollars."

IRS forms ENMRSH and other non-profits are required to file each year show former CEO Spencer was paid $955,497 in compensation in 2010.

"I have gone to the trouble of checking," said Cubra, "and I think the highest amount I've seen anybody paid in a comparable organization is $155,000."

The DOH along with ENMRSH, Spencer and Houfek are defendants in the lawsuit. It also names the Robert B. Spencer Foundation and Zia Holding Corporation, agencies Cubra alleges were created to permit ENMRSH to funnel millions of federal and state dollars it was paid to provide services to the disabled.

Annual New Mexico Department of Health inspections conducted in May 2011 cited seven violations, some the same as those noted in an inspection three years earlier.

The DOH violations are categorized as having "medium impact." They range from the least severe, failure to keep accurate records and insufficient staff training; to most severe, failing to keep complete case files for clients receiving services.

"Based on record review," the DOH report notes, "the Agency (ENMRSH) failed to maintain a complete and confidential case file in the residence for 9 of 14 Individuals receiving Supported Living Services."

The DOH ordered ENMRSH to submit a plan for correcting problems. It isn't known, however, how the agency responded because numerous phone calls to the DOH weren't returned.

ENMRSH, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation that provides services to disabled and handicapped clients in a five county region of Eastern New Mexico, according to its website. The agency lists Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, De Baca and Guadalupe counties as its service areas and says it employs more than 350.

No date has been set for a hearing on the lawsuit.

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