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Florida tested disabled residents health as a result of mold exposure

Florida tested the health of more than 200 residents at a developmental and intellectual institution that is managed by the state. The testing was ordered after report illustrated that there was a severe mold infestation in 16 of the buildings located on the Marianna campus.

Air quality conditions at Sunland Center were the focus of complaints made by whistleblowers that were filed by agency employees. They claim that the state retaliated against them for reporting there was a problem. The Agency for Persons with Disabilities tested 209 residents of the facility as a result of the complaints.

Melanie Etters, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, did not respond to questions regarding the whistleblower complaints that were filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

In a statement that Etters prepared, she stated that the agency hired the services of Jirayos Chintanadilok, a Marianna physician, to determine if the health of any of the residents had been compromised or is at risk for being compromised as a result of exposure to “environmental allergens that may originate from mold.”

Etters said that the testing is being done out of an “overabundance of caution”. Prior to the testing, medical personnel who work at the facility were monitoring the health of the residents. Etters also states that the families of the residents were notified about the potential issues concerning the air quality in the institution and that they were encouraged to get in touch with the administration of the facility if there were any concerns. Etters said that several of the residents families did contact the facility.

Mold has the potential to produce allergens that can cause physical reactions and lead to respiratory issues or aggravate asthma symptoms.

The former director for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Jim DeBeaugrine, said that exposure to mold could be more dangerous for the residents of Sunland, all of whom have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“We’re dealing with people, many of whom have compromised immune systems to begin with, so this represents potentially a very serious threat,” DeBeaugrine said. “I’m glad to see them taking some steps to assess the situation, and hopefully they will act decisively.”

While the agency is testing the residents of the facility, they are not testing the employees who work at Sunland. Etters noted that the agency has “consistently advised employees to seek medical attention if they believe they are experiencing health issues due to air quality at Sunland and to report any air quality concerns to management.”

Some of the employees have done just that.

Tiffany Cruz is Tallahassee attorney who is representing four employees who filed whistleblower complaints against the agency. They alleged that they were retaliated against at work for filing complaints concerning the conditions at the facility.

Mold Inspection & Testing Tallahassee has years of experience performing mold assessments in the city of Tallahassee and the surrounding areas. We suggest Sunland arranges for regular mold testing to ensure the safety of their residents. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 850.629.0119.