DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The family of a long-time patient at the Coastal Center in Dorchester County is speaking out about what they call abuse at the facility.

The facility is one of five in the state run by the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN).

78-year-old Dorothy Dunmeyer has been in long-term care since the age of 16. For the last 41 years, she has lived at the Coastal Center. Dunmeyer is blind and mute with other medical conditions that require around-the-clock care.

“Dorothy cannot bother anyone, she does not bother anyone,” said Annette Green, Dunmeyer’s sister and legal guardian.

Green said it wasn’t until the last decade or so that problems have come up.

“There’s so many things going on in the facility and we get no answers.”

Green keeps a detailed list of injuries Dunmeyer has sustained over the years including lacerations, one requiring stitches, to the area around her eyes, deep scratches on her back, a fractured nose, and more.

Green said the most recent incident happened within the last week.

“We got a phone call from the nurses saying she had bruises. We came down and she has bruises all over her body,” she said.

Green claims when she questions facility staff, they say they don’t know what happened.

“Everyone in the medical field and other people out of the medical field have to have training. So you can’t tell me that someone couldn’t tell us anything? All we got last night was ‘I dont know. I dont know what happened.'”

The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) was called to the facility on Sunday evening by Green who filed a report of abuse. She has also been in contact with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) over the years as well as a Long Term Care Ombudsman in the state. Green said nothing is being done and believes the abuse will continue until a resolution is made.

“We have gotten in as many people as we know to come and help us because we have been crying out about the abuse, neglect and everything for a long time,” said Green.

State agents say the facility has a history of abuse allegations.

In May 2022, three employees were fired from the Coastal Center and arrested by SLED for abuse of a vulnerable adult.

In August 2021, seven employees were fired from another DDSN assisted-living facility, The PeeDee Regional Center. SLED said two people were charged with abuse of a vulnerable adult following an incident that occurred on May 3 and five others were charged with failing to report abuse.

Additionally, DDSN is currently undergoing its third audit since 2008 by the state Legislative Audit Council (LAC). All three audits have been requested by state lawmakers. One was conducted in 2008, another in 2014, and the third was requested in 2021. Results are expected to be published in the spring.

According to the LAC, the current audit objectives, which focus on regional care centers, include:

  • How DDSN consumers are being treated
  • If DDSN is providing needed and timely services to consumers
  • How the agency is protecting consumers from abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • Review staffing to determine any issues
  • Review documentation to learn if staff training is required and adequate
  • Gauge how DDSN staff members communicate and work together

News 2 reached out to DDSN about the alleged abuse at the Coastal Center. The agency responded with the following statement.

“All allegations of abuse involving DDSN will be vetted through the proper authorities.”

S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs

News 2 also reached out to SLED about the allegations. SLED responded with the following statement.

“SLED is aware of the allegations of abuse. SLED is not investigating at this time. This matter has been referred to the Long Term Care Ombudsman for review.”

S.C. Law Enforcement Division

The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office said they have sent their information to SLED to let the state agency decide how to proceed.

Green and her family want answers and justice for their loved one.

“We have called and reported it to the director here. We’ve had meetings over and over again,” said Green. “But we are not turning a blind eye this time.”