Home > Uncategorized > Federal government reviewing group home data in MA and two other states

Federal government reviewing group home data in MA and two other states

The Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has spent the past two years conducting a review of data on abuse and neglect in privatized group homes in three states, including Massachusetts.

In an August 21, 2013 letter written to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson said his office had begun to examine data on admissions of persons from group homes and “nursing facilities” to hospital emergency rooms in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

We obtained Levinson’s letter from the IG’s Freedom of Information Act Division.  The letter promised to share the results of the IG’s findings with Senator Murphy’s office and left open the possibility of expanding the review.  But the letter provided no details on how the review might be expanded.

Senator Murphy, who requested in March 2013 that the IG investigate group homes for people with developmental disabilities, has not responded to numerous requests from us for comment on the IG’s review.

It is not clear when the IG’s examination will be completed.

Despite what appear to be significant limitations in the scope of the analysis, the IG’s review appears to constitute one of the few instances in which the federal government has investigated the privatized group home system of care in the U.S.  In contrast to that relative free ride given to the group home system, the federal government has filed dozens of lawsuits in recent years alleging substandard care in state-run, congregate-care facilities around the country.

There has been mounting evidence that abuse and neglect has been a continuing and growing problem in community-based, group homes.  The IG investigation was requested by Murphy in the wake of a series of articles in The Hartford Courant that documented dozens of deaths, injuries, and other problems stemming from inadequate care and supervision in group homes in Connecticut.

Murphy asked the HHS IG to “focus on the prevalence of preventable deaths at privately run group homes across this nation and the widespread privatization of our delivery system.”

In his August 2013 letter in response to Murphy’s request, Levinson stated that for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, “we are analyzing data to identify instances when Medicaid beneficiaries were transferred from group homes or nursing facilities to hospitals for emergency treatment.  We are analyzing data by facility to determine whether certain facilities have excessive rates relative to those of their peers.”

Due to the way states collect the data, the IG’s analysis would include all Medicaid patients and not only those with developmental disabilities, Levinson said.

Given the vagueness of Levinson’s description of his office’s review, we have a number of questions about it. Levinson’s letter, for instance, didn’t specify what he meant by “nursing facilities,” and didn’t indicate which “peers” the emergency hospital treatment rates are being compared to. Are the group homes and nursing facilities being compared to developmental centers, for instance? It’s also not clear what the data will mean if it lumps together people with and without developmental disabilities.

Moreover, it is not clear whether the IG’s review has included data on actual deaths in group homes, which is what Murphy specifically asked the IG to examine, or whether the review has included differences in mortality rates of persons transferred from state-run to privately run care.  A number of studies have shown increases in mortality rates among those transferred individuals.

The VOR, a national advocacy organization for the developmentally disabled, pointed out in recent testimony to a congressional subcommittee that higher mortality rates have been documented in Virginia, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Georgia in the wake of the DOJ’s deinstitutionalization settlements.

Based on Levinson’s letter, the IG’s review also doesn’t appear to have covered issues such as the quality of care in general in group homes, and it does not appear to be concerned with financial aspects of privatized care.  All of those things are long overdue for investigations at both the federal and state levels of government.  In the meantime, the federal IG’s investigation appears to be at least a step in the right direction.

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  1. Dorothy Rouleau
    May 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Individuals responsible, and party to, the hardship, suffering, death of so many due to the closure of the Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, must be held accountable for such tragedy.

    • Anonymous
      June 9, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Do you have any data or statistics you would like to share? You don’t have to share personal information unless you want, although I don’t see any reason to not share at this point. I understand there were
      fourteen individuals still at Fernald, so I’m wondering how it worked out for them.

      I think the main reason the Department of Developmental Services gets away with their crooked behavior is that they operate out of earshot of most of the public.

    • January 29, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      Massachusetts DDS should be taken over by a federal agency. The abuses that continue without any improvements being made have been tolerated long enough. The people sitting in offices do not care. If they care at all it’s about their next promotion. They do not root cause any of the reoccurring issues from lack of proper resident care due to lazy entitled unionized state workers who cause these residents to ultimately endure pain in suffering with hospital admissions eventually resukting in death. It’s all swept under the rug. The Feds need to step in and stop the bleeding by cleaning house at the top and restructing the department so it holds house managers and the direct care workers accountable. From stealing time to neglect of care, nobody is paying attention because these people are “just retarded”. It is a disgrace. Sure, talking heads can write up ISP’s and food and activity menus but it’s a crock of BS on paper. Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are treated with more human rights.

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