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Adult daycare patients sexually assaulted

September 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A protest was held in El Monte Friday after patients at an adult daycare were sexually assaulted. Family members want the facility to be shut down.Healthy Start provides education and fitness programs for adults with developmental disabilities. But now some patient family members and at least one former employee want the adult daycare facility's license revoked. They claim patient safety is at risk because the facility turned a blind eye to the alleged sexual abuse of patients.

Outside Healthy Start adult daycare in El Monte, a small group of patient family members protested, demanding the facility be shut down after an employee was arrested and charged last May with five counts of sexual assault on multiple special needs patients.

"It's not only one, it's many kids. It's not fair," said former Healthy Start employee Denea Rivera.

Rivera says she witnessed the alleged abused by Juan Fernando Flores, who was working at the facility. But she didn't report the incidents to management because she was afraid.

"They told me 'Because we need to close my mouth. We can talk nothing inside, inside or outside,'" said Rivera.

Rivera says she contacted patient family members and then filed a police report on the alleged abuse. Two months later, she says, Healthy Start fired her for being a whistle-blower.

But the program director at Healthy Start claims Rivera was terminated because she wouldn't comply with company policies.

"There was certain documentations that she didn't want to sign or apply with that unfortunately led to her being let go," said Henry Loaiza, program director at Healthy Start.

"I lost my job, but that's OK. I don't need it, my job is not important. the The kids is what's important," said Rivera.

David Ortiz says his brother, who has Down syndrome, was victimized. He claims the company knew about the abuse but ignored it until police got involved.

"They chose to just put it under the rug, didn't want to talk about it and now we're here," said Ortiz.

The company claims employees are screened and fingerprinted before they are hired, and they're taking the sexual abuse allegations seriously.

"We're trying to do everything that we can to make our program better than it's ever been and we feel that we're doing that and that the parents and families are happy with our approach now," said Loaiza.

As for the former employee suspected of raping special-needs patients at Healthy Start, Juan Fernando Flores, 42, is currently behind bars on an immigration hold.

Flores will appear in court in Pomona for an arraignment hearing on September 28.


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