Federal law enforcement officials have launched an investigation into possible violations of the civil rights of senior veterans living at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, where 32 residents had died after contracting the COVID-19 virus as of Friday.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the investigation in a statement, saying investigators from its Civil Rights Division will be working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
The DOJ said the investigation is independent of any other by state or local officials and is being conducted under the authority of the “Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act,” which gives the department explicit authority to investigate potential violations of civil rights in state-run institutions like nursing homes.
The announcement marks at least the third independent investigation into the Holyoke Soldiers Home deaths. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has commissioned an independent investigation and state Attorney General Maura Healey is conducting a separate investigation, as well.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General for Human Rights Eric Drieband said, “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,” Drieband said.
At his regular media briefing on coronavirus Friday, Baker said he welcomed the federal review.