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OSHA opens investigation of alleged Sauk County workplace attack

OSHA opens investigation of alleged Sauk County workplace attack

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A federal agency is now investigating the latest of multiple injuries to employees who care for a violent Sauk County mental patient.

Last week, Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Scott Allen said the agency was not aware of a Dec. 17 incident that resulted in criminal charges against 31-year-old patient Jeremy R. Felix.

In a follow up email this week, Allen confirmed that OSHA now has “an open investigation.”

The charges against Felix are the latest in a series of incidents in which employees of the company that cares for him allegedly have been attacked and injured.

Neighbors, law enforcement and state lawmakers have previously raised concerns about the state’s placement of Felix in a community setting, rather than a mental health facility.

Felix has a history of becoming violent with caretakers that dates back to 2010, according to Wisconsin court records.

In 2013, multiple Dungarvin Wisconsin employees who cared for Felix at his Baraboo home reported that he attacked and injured them. The company receives funds to care for Felix through the state’s Family Care program.

In response to questions from state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, the state Department of Health Services said at the time that federal law requires patients with mental disorders and intellectual disabilities to receive care “in the least restrictive treatment alternative appropriate to their needs.”

DHS later said it found no issues with Dungarvin’s safety precautions. However, OSHA conducted its own investigation and found that employees at the Baraboo home had been subjected to “hazardous conditions associated with workplace violence.”

Dungarvin later moved Felix to a new home north of Reedsburg in the town of Winfield.

On Dec. 17, Felix allegedly became angry with a Dungarvin employee, punched through an office door, grabbed her hair, and pulled her through the door. Other employees subdued Felix, according to a criminal complaint, and the attacked employee escaped through the locked home’s main entrance.

On Jan. 19, the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office charged Felix with felony aggravated battery, as well as misdemeanor counts of criminal property damage and disorderly conduct.

Last week, Felix was arrested and released back to Dungarvin on a $2,500 signature bond. His attorney has requested a competency evaluation, and a judge has ordered that one take place in an in-patient setting.

Felix has been transferred to a Dungarvin group home in Milwaukee, according to court records.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

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Baraboo News Republic reporter

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