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DHHS will stop paying Biddeford company after group home resident died in its care

Darren Fishell | BDN
Darren Fishell | BDN
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services offices on State Street in Augusta are shown on Dec. 1, 2017.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state’s Department of Health and Human Services has ended its MaineCare contracts with a Biddeford company that ran 38 homes with one to two beds for adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries after a client died in its care.

The department says Residential and Community Support Services, whose group homes were located throughout much of southern Maine, failed to provide a resident with “critical” medication, and it didn’t call for emergency services when the same client had a medical emergency. The resident died in late August. DHHS said in a news release that it cannot release the client’s name for privacy reasons.

The decision to end its MaineCare agreement with Residential and Community Support Services means the organization will no longer be able to receive payments from MaineCare — the state’s version of Medicaid — to care for clients. DHHS said it will continue to pay the organization until all its residents find new housing.

DHHS said its Adult Protective Services office opened an investigation into Residential and Community Support Services when it learned of the resident’s death in August. The department said no new residents have been admitted to the company’s group homes since Aug. 30. The resident’s death was also the subject of a law enforcement investigation.

The state agency ended its contract with Residential and Community Support Services after starting a program audit and requiring the company to submit a corrective plan. In the course of the audit, DHHS said it found the company’s staff failed to administer medications to other residents and did not demonstrate an effective quality management and monitoring program. The organization also failed to ensure that it met overall health care standards.

DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the company’s actions were “unacceptable” and that the state will do what it can to help the residents through the transition “as we old the company accountable.”

Residential Community and Support Services has 65 residents in its care, according to DHHS. The company has been a MaineCare provider since 2013 and provided residential services as well as emergency transitional housing services.

DHHS said it has already removed four residents, with a fifth transition currently in progress. It said the transition of the remaining residents is expected to last no more than 30 days and that the state has identified enough beds to house the residents.

Company CEO Christine Tiernan said in an emailed statement that the company will respond to the notice of the terminated contract “promptly & in an appropriate fashion.” She declined to comment further other than to say the company is cooperating with DHHS’ investigation.

In 2017, a federal audit found DHHS, during then-Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, had failed to investigate the deaths of 133 people with developmental disabilities between January 2013 and June 2015. The audit also found the department only accepted 5 percent of suspected cases of medication errors; physical, verbal and sexual abuse of group home residents; and neglect and exploitation for investigations by the state’s Adult Protective Services division.

 



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