A home health aide dead of a drug overdose, leaving his disabled client trapped in a hot car for more than an hour.
In July, Rocky Thompson’s family shared their story with 10TV.
Four days after the story aired, Rocky’s health care provider dropped him as a client. Rocky’s family says he’s being punished for going public.
Rocky ‘s life changed forever in a train accident when he was 19 years old.
A bruised brain stem left the now 37-year-old confined to a wheelchair, dependent on the care of others around the clock.
Medicaid pays for his family to have the assistance of a home health aide, a blessing for Rocky’s primary caregiver, his sister Danyelle Sommerville.
“That does help me be able to care for my kids and care for Rocky at the same time,” Danyelle said.
But on June 17, Rocky’s home health aide died of a suspected drug overdose inside a west Columbus home. Rocky was trapped alone in a hot car for one hour and 16 minutes.
“I was scared for my life,” Rocky said.
The deceased health worker was employed by Sunrise Family Healthcare. Danyelle says the company’s response was to keep quiet.
“They were trying to get me to not say anything to the state caseworker. She was…asking me, have you talked to the state case worker? And I said no. Her reply back was, ‘Do you think Rocky will tell her?’ And at that point I got suspicious. Why is Rocky not supposed to tell the state case worker about this incident? So I asked her again- are we not supposed to say anything to the state case worker? And she goes, ‘I can’t really tell you what to do. That’s your decision. But I would just like to leave them out of this.'”
Danyelle notified the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
On July 20, 10TV shared Rocky’s story and allegations from those close to the deceased health aide that Sunrise missed warning signs, and failed to protect Rocky. Four days later, Danyelle received a letter from Sunrise.
“A 30-day notice, they went ahead and fired Rocky from the practice,” she said. “They dropped him. They will no longer provide any services for him.”
The letter gave no reason, but Danyelle believes she knows why.
“I think the reason was because we went on the news. We went public with this. We went public with it.”
10TV asked Rocky if he felt like he was being punished. His one-word response: “Yeah.”
“I’m frustrated. I’m angry, I’m hurt. Because we still lost somebody in this,” said Danyelle. “So that’s very, very hard on us still. But at the end of the day, it absolutely infuriates me that Rocky is getting punished for something that he did not do.”
10TV checked with the Ohio Department of Medicaid, and it says home health providers are free to drop clients for any reason, as long as they give 30 days’ written notice.
Because Sunrise did give that notice, no matter what the reason, they were within their rights to terminate care for Rocky.
The Department of Medicaid is still investigating the incident involving Rocky’s health aide as a possible case of neglect.
10TV reached out to Sunrise Family Healthcare. They declined comment.
Rocky has found a new home health provider, that his family says they are very happy with.