Chelsey Payne, a 30-year-old employee with Palm Coast-based East Coast Habilitation Options, was caring for a 20-year-old client at the Palm Coast Community center three weeks ago when a community center employee noticed something gravely amiss.
The employee’s attention eventually led to a call to the Sheriff’s Office and Payne’s arrest on a third-degree felony charge of abusing a disabled adult. Payne, of San Mateo, posted bail on $7,500 bond and was released after her booking at the county jail on Dec. 5.
At first the 58-year-old employee noticed the client and his caretaker in a confrontation, as if he weren’t being compliant, then hitting his own head on the wall. At one point the employee sought help from another East Coast staffer who was in the playground. East Coast Habilitation Options, which goes by the name Echo, bills itself as helping “children, teens, and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges.”
In this case, the 20-year-old client was diagnosed with autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and mood disorder. He was one of five clients Payne and two other Echo staff members had taken to the community center’s playground, but Payne and the 20 year old separated from the group for about 30 minutes.
The employee asked Payne if she could be of help, perhaps call someone to assist, only to be directed toward the playground, where she noticed Payne becoming more physical with the client. She observed Payne and someone else in the playground of the community center, keeping the 20-ywear-old patient’s face against the ground while she held his arm before the pair of Echo employees moved the client to a vehicle.The incident took place between 3:30 and 4:10 p.m. on Nov. 22. The next day, the community center employee contacted the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the center turned over surveillance footage.
The video showed the patient and Payne approaching a water fountain. The patient is holding a cookie and getting a drink from the water fountain. Payne is on her cell phone. She looks irritated with the patient. The 28-second segment of video footage shows Payne trying to get his attention as he again takes a drink. Payne then in quick succession grabs his throat three times with her right hand, backing up the client against a wall as he keeps trying to get away from her.
She grabs his arm, casing him to drop the cookies. The video then skips, suggesting that there’d been stretch when neither was visible. They reappear again in the same vestibule area, outside one of the conference rooms, where the client pushes Payne away, but she reaches and pulls at his ear, gets in his face, points at the corner, grabs his throat, and strikes him in the face. The whole time, the client has his two hands up in a defensive posture.
It was at that point that, in footage the sheriff’s office did not release, the community center employee is seen approaching Payne and the client and walking outside to the playground, where Payne forced the 20 year old to the ground by the neck.
East Coast habilitation Options is an 8-year-old company based in Palm Coast, owned by Alvin Collins and Maryann Reiter. Neither returned a call fore this article initially published.
By the time a deputy made contact with Reiter and Brian Turner, an administrative employee at Echo, part of the incident had been reported to the administration by a co-worker–and that Payne had been fired. But the account of the incident only described what took place in the playground, not inside the community center, according to the arrest report.
“This supposed ‘caretaker’ clearly did not show any care or compassion while she was abusing a disabled person,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “We send our deepest sympathies to the victim and their family.” He commended the department’s major case detectives for solving the case quickly.
Tuner trains employees on interactions with clients with behavioral issues, and both Turner and Reiter, when shown the video from inside the community center, told a deputy that the grabbing of an individual’s throat, and striking that individual, are not regulation. One of the fellow-employees who was with Payne at the community center, 35-year-old Vaneque Miller, told a deputy that Payne claimed the client had struck her in the face. He described Payne as cursing and provoking the client, which led Miller to get into a confrontation with Payne about her behavior.
Hold me back!! says
Wow! There is absolutely no rationalizing this. I am honestly proud of everyone doing something here. The co worker stepped up and was defending the client which is amazing. He was sticking up for himself and that helped get attention from the community center worker!! I hope he can find the best caretaker available after this monster!!!! I would really love to see if this scumbag would interfere with me when I were at the water fountain!!!!!
This is what happens when a company hires people with no more than a high school diploma to take care of people with special needs, barely supervises them, and then pays them less than $25 an hour. Many of ECHO’s workers are good. Many are not. If you want good people taking care of our vulnerable, ATTRACT GOOD PEOPLE. Raise the pay, raise the ratio of workers to clients, and for the love of god, TRAIN AND SUPERVISE THEM.
marty barrett says
Not sure we necessarily need to heap praise on detectives for “solving the case”, I mean….
Robert Joseph Fortier says
What DO you mean?
Florida Girl says
There has to be a special place in hell for someone that does this. Thank God for those cameras!
Joseph Barand says
Why is a private business utilizing these facilities. Shouldn’t they have their own facilities. It sounds like they bring their clients here possibly creating dangerous problems for the public. What is the cities policy concerning this use of public for this and all other city own properties.
pc livin says
They have to rent the facilities. They’re not free.
Nurse Rachet says
Bring back the Insane Asylums from the 50’s. Make sure these workers carry Thorazine injections needles with them at all times. I have been around these mentally CRAZY (autistic} humans. Their own parents can’t handle them so they put them anywhere to get away from them. Let’s see YOU people deal with these insane humans. Yea, I didn’t think so !
Stop justfying abuse says
I have 3 close friends who work or have worked at ECHO. None of them had to resort to abuse to do their jobs. Just seems like you have a hard time controlling your temper around vulnerable people…are you okay sweetie? Do you need a Thorazine injection? :)