Federal investigation launched into Holyoke Soldiers’ Home stricken by virus

Three more deaths reported at Soldiers' Home under federal probe

HOLYOKE, Mass. — The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division have opened an investigation into the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke where more than two dozen residents have died since March.

The investigation will be conducted to determine whether the Soldiers’ Home “violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic.”

As of Friday night, 35 residents have died and 73 staff members tested positive for coronavirus. 76 veteran residents had tested positive for the virus, while 99 others tested negative; 17 residents’ test results are pending.

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This investigation is separate from those launched by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office and Governor Charlie Baker.

“It would be difficult to overstate our obligation to the health and well-being of elderly and disabled military veterans and, by extension, to their families. The federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act specifically protects the rights of those confined in state facilities like the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. We will aggressively investigate recent events at the Home and, as needed, require the Commonwealth to adopt reforms to ensure patient safety in the future. My condolences to the families of those veterans who died while in the Home’s care; we will get to the bottom of what happened here.”
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling

“Clearly by the time our team showed up, the place had real problems and that was obviously demonstrated by what everybody saw there on the ground," said Governor Baker.

The point of this investigation will be to determine whether the state run facility “violated the civil rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be difficult to overstate our obligation to the health and well-being of elderly and disabled military veterans and, by extension, to their families. The federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act specifically protects the rights of those confined in state facilities like the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. We will aggressively investigate recent events at the Home and, as needed, require the Commonwealth to adopt reforms to ensure patient safety in the future. My condolences to the families of those veterans who died while in the Home’s care; we will get to the bottom of what happened here,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

Lelling admits, part of the reason his office is getting involved is because these are elderly and disabled veterans who served our country and now it’s an opportunity to look out for them.

“There is a strong federal interest in making sure U.S. veterans cared for by the state are receiving a minimal level of care,” he said. “Based off of what we are seeing in the press we are concerned that did not happen so we are bringing this investigation and we will aggressively pursue what exactly happened here and make the state make changes In the facility if needed.”

The facility is now under the command of new staff and the National Guard is also on hand to help out.

“We are going to look into the decisions they made, what they chose to do or not do,” said Lelling. “Once we do that we’ll be able to say to the state, you need specific reforms at this institution because these deaths were due to negligence and not just because we are dealing with a raging pandemic.”

The facility is now under the command of new staff and the National Guard is also on hand to help out.