E N Q U I R E R   S P E C I A L   I N V E S T I G A T I O N
Living alone

About 4,800 mentally retarded Ohioans live in their own homes and rely on home-care aides to help them take their medicine, shop for groceries and do other everyday chores. Taxpayers spend more than $200 million a year on private companies to provide this care.

But the state and counties rarely check on whether companies do even adequate jobs. The mentally retarded, on their own and at the mercy of untrained, low-paid workers, routinely die preventable deaths or are abused, neglected or robbed, a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation has found.

Problems are likely to get worse. As part of a national movement to give people more independence, the government will spend up to $400 million over the next three years to move thousands more impaired Ohioans away from aging parents or licensed facilities and into places of their own. By 2005, the number of mentally retarded people living alone in Ohio is expected to double.

They will live in the least regulated homes in the state. Read the full story

About this project
Enquirer reporters Debra Jasper and Spencer Hunt and photographer Michael E. Keating spent 16 months crisscrossing the state, interviewing the mentally retarded, their families, advocates and officials. They traveled to dozens of places, from rural Vinton County in Appalachia to Lake County, bordering Lake Erie.

Ms. Jasper is Statehouse bureau chief. She has covered politics and government for 16 years.

Mr. Hunt is Statehouse bureau reporter. He has written about politics and government for 10 years.

Mr. Keating, a 23-year-veteran photographer, covers everything from sports and politics to breaking news.

To contact Debra Jasper:
E-mail: djasper@enquirer.com
Or call: 614-224-4640

To contact Spencer Hunt:
E-mail him at: shunt@enquirer.com
Or call: 614-224-4640

To contact Michael E. Keating:
E-mail him at: mkeating@enquirer.com
Or call: 513-768-8401

Inside the Report
Living alone
Many people don't get the help they need to live on their own.

At last, a decent home
Pete Angler lived in danger for years, but now he's safe.

Flexibility yields solutions
Some counties tailor programs to individuals who need help.

Hamilton County reports
Open-to-public inspections help families choose providers for loved ones.

Who's accountable
The agencies and departments charged with prosecuting crimes against the mentally retarded.

What's been done
Find out what's changed since the first two installments of Ohio's Secret Shame

Photographer's album
A visual journey into the lives of Ohio's mentally retarded.

For Pete's Sake
A photo essay of Pete Angler and his advocates' 10-month struggle.

Ohio's Secret Shame

Part 1Part 2Part 3

The Findings
A special Enquirer report reveals many people are mistreated and the system is too overwhelmed to help them.

Among findings:

At least 12 mentally retarded Ohioans and probably many more have died in questionable circumstances in the past four years.

Deaths from all causes jumped 78 percent, and reports of neglect and other serious incidents quadrupled. Yet there's little public accounting.

The state found problems so serious at 65 institutions and nursing homes that it threatened to shut them down. It never closed one.

Some county caseworkers are supposed to watch over 125 people at once five times the state's recommended number sacrificing quality care.

Taxpayer support is so uneven that one Ohio county spends $43,800 a year on each mentally retarded person while another spends just $2,800. More...