In the wake of findings by the state of negligence by the staff of a human services provider that almost resulted in the death of a developmentally disabled man, a legislative committee plans to hold one or more hearings on the Department of Developmental Services system, starting next month.
A press release issued by the state Legislature’s joint Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee referred to a single hearing and said it will concern “current DDS policies, procedures, and responses to reported incidents.” The press release did not specify a date for the hearing, but said it will be held “in the New Year.”
A staff member of the committee said last week (on December 7) that a specific date had not yet been set for the hearing, but that it would be held sometime in January. Previously, another staff member had stated that more details about the scope of the committee’s review, including whether the committee would focus on the privatized system of DDS care and whether there might be more than one hearing still needed to be ironed out.
COFAR is inviting people with information about abuse or neglect in DDS-funded group homes in Massachusetts to testify before the committee. If you have information you would like to share, please contact us.
In the case that apparently sparked the committee’s interest, a DDS investigation concluded in September that seven employees of Bass River, Inc., a DDS provider, were at fault after Ioannis “Yianni” Baglaneas, a 29-year-old man with Down Syndrome, contracted severe pneumonia in his group home after aspirating on the cake.
The DDS cited the staff for failing to ensure that Yianni regularly used required breathing equipment that could have prevented the pneumonia; and the report stated that a high-level Bass River employee removed key records from the home and instructed the staff not to cooperate with the DDS investigation.
COFAR has urged legislators for several years to hold oversight hearings as part of a comprehensive legislative investigation of the DDS group home system. To date, no such investigation has been undertaken by the Legislature since the late 1990’s when the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee examined the group home system and found systemic problems with abuse, neglect, and financial irregularities.
The Post Audit report stated that DDS’s oversight of the privatized system raised “grave doubts about (DDS’s) commitment to the basic health and safety issues and ensuring that community placements provide equal or better care for (DDS) clients.”
Now, 20 years later, it does not appear that much has changed in the system. The association of increased privatization with poor oversight and abuse and neglect is still the case, and inadequate care and conditions remain all too common in group homes in Massachusetts and around the country.
AFSCME Council 93, a union representing state, county and municipal workers in Massachusetts, recently endorsed COFAR’s call for hearings, sharing COFAR’s previous post on the subject on the union’s Facebook page on November 28.
COFAR is continuing to urge people to call Representative Kay Khan, the House chair of the Children and Families committee (617-722-1230), or Senator Joan Lovely, the Senate chair ( 617-722-2011), to express support for multiple and comprehensive hearings. We are also, as stated, are urging people to contact us about testifying before the committee.
“We certainly hope that the committee will thoroughly investigate this very critical issue,” said Colleen M. Lutkevich, COFAR’s executive director. “We hope they will zero in on the key problems that have resulted from runaway privatization of services with inadequate oversight.”