UPDATED: The Arizona Department of Health Services got back to us. Click here for update.
Three assisted living facilities in Phoenix have been shut down -- and the owner of the facilities has been arrested -- after cops noticed they more resembled the apartment of a tweaked-out meth head than a place designated to care for some of Phoenix's most helpless residents.
Melissa Pacheco, 42, a tele-health nurse with Phoenix V.A. Health Care System, was arrested today and booked on multiple counts of abusing vulnerable adults with ages ranging from 35-89 years old.
According to the Phoenix Police Department, in July of last year, officers noticed an influx of emergency calls to Pacheco's facilities for things like patient medical problems, and special needs residents wandering around neighborhoods alone in the area of the facilities.
Officers, as well as Phoenix Fire and Rescue employees, expressed concerns about "unsafe living conditions, an unhealthy environment, and untreated medical conditions" for several of the residents.
To say the conditions in these facilities were "unsafe" is being polite -- these places were flat-out revolting.
Phoenix police Sergeant Trent Crump tells New Times some of the items found in the facilities include urine and feces on the floors, bug infestations, dead pigeons, mold, trash, and inoperable plumbing.
After city authorities expressed their concerns, the facilities were shut down in July, and Pacheco was investigated by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
During the investigation -- aside from the filth-filled facilities -- it was discovered that many of the residents suffered from open sores, untreated broken bones, dehydration, and other serious medical conditions that had gone untreated under Pacheco's care.
All the patients under Pacheco's care have since been moved to other facilities.
Crump says a lot of the victims are developmentally disabled, and many relied solely on Pacheco to care for them because they didn't have a family of their own. That, perhaps, is how the abuse went unnoticed.
"There are people who've been in these facilities for six years and never had a visitor," Crump says.
Dozens of Pacheco's employees were interviewed, and it appears they were not involved in the abuse, Crump says.
According to Crump, all the employees have been cooperative with the investigation, and several told police that whenever they raised concerns about the conditions with Pacheco, their jobs were threatened.
And now for the elephant in the room: where was the Arizona Department of Health Services, the agency that licenses assisted living facilities like the ones operated by Pacheco? Crump says the DHS was involved in the investigation into the facilities following their being shut down. Why the DHS wasn't the agency who noticed the alleged abuse in the first place remains a mystery -- DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley did not immediately return our call this afternoon.
In total, Pacheco was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on 69 counts of abusing vulnerable adults.
"This is a lot of victims," Crump says. "A lot of people who can't defend themselves...it's sad."