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DDS residential services vendors operating with expired licenses

An undetermined number of service vendors to the state Department of Developmental Services have operated group homes and provided other services to clients of the Department despite having expired state licenses, according to a survey done by COFAR.

The survey identified at least three vendors — the Center for Human Development (CHD), Vinfen, and Independent Living for Adults with Special Needs — that were operating with expired two-year licenses as of mid-December.

The situation appears to be the result of an inability of DDS to approve the vendors’ license renewal applications within a prescribed time frame of 60 to 120 days, possibly due to a lack of adequate staffing in the Department.

DDS regulations allow vendors to continue to operate with expired licenses as long as those vendors submit license renewal applications more than 60 days prior to the license expiration dates.  That was the case with the three vendors identified by COFAR, according to DDS.

The DDS licensure system for vendors is viewed as a critical means of ensuring that the vendors provide quality care and safe environments for thousands of people with developmental disabilities.  According to an online DDS Licensure Manual, the licensure process he is based on the ability of a vendor to meet several “essential safeguards” that concern personal safety, health, rights, a competent workforce, and individual care plans.

While the regulations appear to provide the Department with a technical reason for declaring expired licenses valid, it is concerning that DDS is apparently unable to ensure that license approvals are not more than two years old for all vendors.

According to DDS, Independent Living submitted its license renewal application on April 4, 2012.  As of mid-December, some eight months later, the Department had apparently not yet approved the application or issued a new license to the vendor to continue to operate.  The vendor’s license expired in August 2012.

 Similarly, CHD submitted its license renewal application in July 2012 and Vinfen submitted its application in August 2012, according to DDS, and yet neither of those vendors had apparently been issued new licenses to operate as of mid-December.  CHD’s license expired in October, and two licenses held by Vinfen expired in November.

COFAR emailed DDS Commissioner Elin Howe on January 2, seeking an explanation as to why it was taking so long in each of these cases for DDS to approve the licensure applications and issue new licenses to the three vendors.  A revision of the DDS licensing process in 2009 envisioned, among other things, improving the “efficiency” of the process and shortening the time it takes to survey a vendor’s group homes from a maximum of 14 days down to 5 days, according to the DDS Licensure Manual.

COFAR last surveyed online DDS licensure reports in November for some 30 DDS vendors and found that 11 of the reports appeared to be out of date on the DDS website because they listed licenses granted to the vendors that appeared to have expired.  Among those reports were the following:

  • A licensure report for CHD, dated November 2010, which listed an expiration date for the vendor’s license for residential and individual home supports of October 28, 2012.   As of January 7, 2013, the November 2010 licensure report was still the only posted document for this vendor on the DDS site.
  • A licensure report for Vinfen, dated December 2010, which listed an expiration date of November 8, 2012 for each of the vendor’s licenses for residential and individual home supports and for employment and day supports.  As of January 7, 2013, a follow-up report, dated March 2011, was posted on the DDS site for Vinfen, but the document did not indicate any change in the license expiration date.
  • A licensure report for Independent Living, dated September 2010, which stated that the vendor’s license for residential and individual home supports had been “deferred” as of that date because six “critical indicators” had not been met during an August 2010 licensure survey.  As of January 7, 2013, the September 2010 licensure report was still the only posted document for this vendor on the DDS site.

In letter to COFAR, dated December 19, 2012, Robert Smith, a DDS assistant general counsel, stated that the licenses for the three vendors were considered valid by the Department because the license renewal applications for each vendor had been submitted more than 60 days prior to the license expiration dates. 

Smith said that while the license for Independent Living had been temporarily deferred in 2010, the vendor corrected its licensure deficiencies in October of that year and was subsequently issued a two-year license that expired on August 26, 2012.  Because the vendor had submitted its license renewal application in April 2012, more than 60 days prior to the expiration of the license, that license, like those for CHD and Vinfen, was considered valid by the Department, Smith said.

In an earlier December 5, 2012 letter to COFAR, Smith stated that the Department was “actively correcting delays in posting current reports on its website.”

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