I-Team: Chicopee group home faces complaints

I-Team

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – A couple living near a group home in Chicopee is raising concerns about the level of care being administered to the residents living in the home.

Guidewire operates nearly 50 group homes in western Massachusetts. Many of those homes are nestled in quiet suburban neighborhoods.

“It’s a family neighborhood,” Mario Docarmo said. “People walking their dogs, riding bikes, really nice neighborhood.”

Mario Docarmo and Monika Orzechowski of Chicopee live near a group home along Labelle Drive that is run by Guidewire. The non-profit is a human service agency that supports people with disabilities in community settings. Monika captured a video of a woman left lying on a sidewalk in front of the group home on her street in November of 2020.

In the video, the women can be seen left on the sidewalk for more than five minutes. A Guidewire staff member checks on her, but Orzechowski felt the woman wasn’t being helped.

“It was really disturbing to me,” Monika Orzechowski said. “I wouldn’t want my family member lying on the ground in mid-November for over five minutes.”

Guidewire told the 22News I-Team they were aware of the incident in question. Guidewire’s director of Human Resources, Jay Talbot said staff didn’t want to move the woman immediately to avoid further harm. In the video, the woman can be seen eventually propping herself up. Talbot said it was then that staff was able to assist her up.

Over the years, homes run by Guidewire have been the subject of complaints alleging abuse and neglect. Talbot told the 22News I-Team that substantiated complaints have decreased from 12 in 2015 – to two in 2020.

Police were called to this specific group home on Labelle Drive at least once since 2019. The 22News I-Team filed public records request with Chicopee Police, which turned up a noise complaint.

The majority of Guidewire’s direct care staff is full-time, funded by taxpayers. About 95-percent of the Guidewire’s funding is from the Commonwealth. The 22News I-Team obtained a copy of Guidewire’s 2017 tax returns, which show they received more than $19-million in government funding.

Docarmo and Orzechowski feel there should be more oversight if their tax dollars are footing the bill.

“That fall is what really hit me in the heart. Seeing that lady lying on the ground,” Orzechowski said.

Guidewire employs approximately 480 people.

There isn’t licensing for direct care employees in Massachusetts, but Guidewire said all employees receive extensive training, and oversight is provided by licensed and certified nurses and clinicians.

Guidewire said the incident with the woman falling was reported to the state.

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