Some Claim Dover Woods Neglects Residents

By Brenda Flanagan

“These people are sick. They’re ill,” said Laura Bowker.

Bowker says her friend — who’s bipolar and suffers from depression — lives at Dover Woods, a state-licensed residential health care facility in Toms River, that houses mostly patients discharged from New Jersey psychiatric hospitals. Bowker says they’re neglected.

“They’re just thrown to the wayside, thrown to the wayside,” she said.

A former Dover Woods kitchen manager turned whistleblower claims in news reports it’s mouse-infested, serves barely edible food and that residents are “thrown in there and left to rot.”

“It’s very sad. Very, very sad,” Bowker said.

We went inside briefly with a cell phone — most of the residents were out at day programs — and asked one resident about the staff.

“They have a #$@&%* attitude, like they can start trouble and bang into you and everything. It’s garbage,” said a resident.

We asked a staffer about these allegations. He said they were shocking. Beyond that, he that no comment.

Meanwhile, Toms River police say they logged 261 service calls to Dover Woods last year — 164 so far this year.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised. I was very upset, because it’s tragic,” said Bob Davison.

Davison heads the Mental Health Association of Essex County. Two years ago, he went undercover at Dover Woods as a patient.

“It was one of the most disturbing things I ever witnessed,” he said.

He described the residents then. Many had been released from Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital.

“Hallucinating, delusional, unable to care for their basic needs. Many individuals walking around had defecated themselves, urine-stained clothes,” Davison said. “Facilities first and for most like this shouldn’t be used for individuals who are that ill.”

Sen. Dick Codey estimates 800 to 1,000 former psychiatric hospital patients live in health care facilities and boarding homes.

“They are people with mental illness and addictions, sent to these facilities, where they are not cared for,” he said. “We need psychiatric hospitals because not everybody can survive in a community setting — whether in group homes or in one of these facilities.”

Codey sponsored a bill that would require the state to post details when it inspects these facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services calls Dover Woods a “boarding home” and says it does not license the facility.