Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center Exonerated on Negligence and Other Charges

WESTBROOK – Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center has announced that in a unanimous decision reached July 13, a jury in New London Superior court exonerated the center on all counts leveled by the parents of a North Stonington woman.

"With their decision to find Vista not liable for any of the charges, the jury indicated that Vista acted with reasonableness and care," said Helen K. Bosch, M.S., Vista's executive director. "This is a victory for every one of our students who seeks the opportunity to learn to live on their own through our program."

For five years, the parents of a young woman with disabilities and their attorney have waged a legal battle against the Westbrook-based non-profit educational program.

Small cameras hidden in a clock radio and an air purifier recorded a Vista worker, Cherie Oman, repeatedly tampering with Melissa Couto's medication in the Westbrook home for the mentally disabled.

Oman reportedly consumed the drug, a stimulant called focalin.

Oman was fired, prosecuted and sent to prison in 2007 for two years. Jane and John Couto filed the lawsuit on June 24 on behalf of their 25-year-old daughter.

"For the past five years, Vista has found itself on the receiving end of a campaign to undermine our mission of fostering independence for young adults. Their allegations throughout this trial have challenged the premise that our students deserve the opportunity to try to gain their independence. With this verdict, our mission has been validated and our reputation cleared. We are glad to see it end as now we can focus on what we love to do – provide training and opportunities to succeed," she said.

Vista Vocational and Life Skills Center is a private, non-profit community-based educational program for adults with neurological disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, brain injury, a learning disability, or epilepsy. All of Vista's educational and support services are designed to enable the 170+ adults they serve to succeed in work and to live as independently as possible in the community. They offer dormitory living in their Westbrook campus, followed by a phase in the Transition Apartments in Guilford. After graduating from the Entrance phase of the program, students continue to be supported by Vista as they live independently in the community.

Bosch expressed her concern that the atmosphere surrounding the case eclipsed the needs of the one person it was supposed to be about. "Throughout this process, we have been saddened to see that the young woman's needs and wants overshadowed by the lawsuit. Now that it's over, we hope she can get back on the path toward independence that she started with Vista."

Bosch expressed gratitude to all those who continued to believe in their mission to support independence for their students: "Throughout this ordeal, we have been gratified by the support we have received from the so many of our partners in the community and by the families of our students. They totally believe in our passion for supporting an individual's right to be included in the community. That's why young men and women come here from all over the country to learn and to succeed. We thank everyone who has been unwavering in their support and kindness."

About Vista
Vista Vocational and Life Skills Center is a private, non-profit community-based educational program for adults with neurological disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, brain injury, a learning disability, or epilepsy. All of Vista's educational and support services are designed to enable the 170+ adults they serve to succeed in work and to live as independently as possible in the community. They offer dormitory living in their Westbrook campus, followed by a phase in the Transition Apartments in Guilford. After graduating from the Entrance phase of the program, students continue to be supported by Vista as they live independently in the community.

For more information go to www.vistavocational.org.

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