Tag Archives: DIDD

DIDD budget hearing: No improvements, maybe more cuts

On the heels of an audit critical of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for not providing adequate services to people in its care, agency officials on Wednesday presented a budget plan for next year that could cut services even more.

Further from The Tennessean:

Department head Debra Payne outlined what a $15 million cut in state funds would look like for an agency that serves 8,000 state residents and has an additional 7,100 people on a waiting list for services. Cuts could include ending services to families caring for adults with disabilities at home and downsizing a program that investigates abuse and neglect.

The budget plan is preliminary, part of a series of provisional 5 percent budget reduction plans presented by all state agencies at the governor’s request.

Regardless of whether Gov. Bill Haslam ultimately cuts existing services, the proposed budget made clear that department officials have no immediate plans to provide services to thousands of state residents with developmental disabilities. It’s a population that includes people with spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other disabilities who currently have no agency programs or funding designated to aid them — despite a state law requiring DIDD to provide such assistance.

DIDD officials say steps taken to improve handling of alleged abuse

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State disability officials told legislators Wednesday that they are taking steps to improve the way cases involving abuse allegations are handled.

Commissioner Debbie Payne of the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities told a legislative subcommittee that a policy has been instituted to prohibit one person from overturning the results of internal investigations. Instead, the responsibility will be handed over to an investigations review committee.

The new policy was instituted in the wake of an audit by the state comptroller’s office that was critical of the way two deaths were handled. The audit said there were substantiated allegations of wrongdoing involving employees of a service provider.

However, the then-deputy commissioner overturned the findings of the internal investigation, and the contract provider was never held accountable.

“We take very seriously allegations of abuse … and have taken some very strong assertive actions to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Payne said.

The department serves more than 8,000 people, many of whom live in state institutions or community settings. About 7,200 are on a waiting list for services, said officials, adding that they just don’t have the money to provide services to all who need them.

The audit said that unless the state finds a sufficient funding solution, “the high number of individuals … on the waiting list for Medicaid services will continue to plague the department.”

Jim Henry preceded Payne as commissioner and said part of the funding problem is simply a result of the economic downturn over the last several years.

“We’ve been involved in a national recession since 2008,” said Henry, now the commissioner of the state Department of Children’s Services. “We were trying to shelter the programs we had.”

Note: Documents provided late Tuesday by DIDD indicate one of the two deaths came by the disabled person choking while eating a burrito. The other involved death of a youngster with questions raised over medication taken.

Audit: DIDD deputy overturned findings of misconduct in two deaths

News release from state comptroller’s office:
The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) must remedy serious problems in its service recipient safety practices, service delivery system, and information system implementation efforts, according to a report released today by the Comptroller’s office.

The department provides services directly to recipients or indirectly through contracts with community providers in a variety of settings, ranging from institutional care to individual supported living in the community. DIDD was serving 8,096 individuals as of May 31 of this year.

Among other findings, state auditors reported that:

· DIDD’s former deputy commissioner of the Office of Policy and Innovation improperly assumed authority to overturn two substantiated allegations of misconduct against provider employees and therefore did not intend to hold the provider accountable for service recipient deaths;

· The department did not establish appropriate safeguards to govern the background checks of DIDD employees, volunteers, or provider employees. That deficiency resulted in employees beginning work before background checks were completed, volunteers who had no background checks performed, and provider employees with disqualifying drug convictions that went undetected;

· DIDD was not providing adequate services for individuals with developmental disabilities in violation of statutory requirements and its own mission statement;

· Until top state officials find a sufficient funding solution, the high number of individuals with intellectual disabilities on the waiting list for Medicaid services will continue to plague the department; and

· Since 1994, DIDD has spent at least $4.3 million to replace its outdated information system with little to show for the expense. DIDD has estimated that it will spend another $11.8 million to complete the project.

“DIDD serves some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Therefore, the department must do its utmost to ensure the safety of each individual served and to enhance the quality of life of all Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Auditors will present their findings at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Education, Health and General Welfare on October 23. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Hearing Room 16 at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville.

Note: The full audit — 155 pages with multiple findings — is HERE.

Plug Pulled on Chattanooga Program Despite State Funding Flip-Flop

The state’s last-minute offer to reinstate a $774,000 grant for a program at Chattanooga’s TEAM Centers has come too late to prevent the service’s planned Aug. 12 closure, the clinic’s director says.
More from Andy Sher:
Too many employees already have accepted jobs elsewhere, interim Executive Director Peter Charman said Friday evening. But he said he and the board will work to reassemble a new staff to run the program that provides diagnostic and other services for developmentally and intellectually disabled children and adults.
“We will begin a recruiting effort immediately to look for new clinical staff,” Charman said, reading from a statement prepared by the board of directors. “Also, I’m talking to other agencies and clinical practices in the community to look for ways to deliver these important services to our patients.”
Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities on July 13 decided against continuing the grant following a “top to bottom review” of spending and programs. Gov. Bill Haslam has ordered all agencies to conduct such reviews to streamline services and save money.
The grant funded what one parent has called a “once-in-a-lifetime” clinical program for children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, other developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.
Disabled residents from across the state were referred to TEAM for speech, occupational and physical therapy, along with medical evaluations and treatment from experts.
But the newly created Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Department’s chief, Commissioner Jim Henry, had questioned the grant. He insisted his department was not supposed to be in the business of providing services for most children, although some advocates disagree.
The state originally had offered a final $193,000 grant to TEAM to keep the program running for three months so other sources of operational funds could be found or developed.
But once the department was told by TEAM officials that they would spend the grant on severance packages and other “shutdown costs,” the state withdrew the grant offer.

DIDD Backs Off Plan to Cut Chattanooga Center

A top state official is offering to extend a $774,000 grant for Chattanooga-based TEAM Centers Inc. through June 30, 2012, reports the Chattanooga TFP. That would give the provider has more time to pursue alternative funding for diagnostic and treatment services it provides to people with intellectual disabilities.
“I’m probably going to give them another year,” state Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Jim Henry told the Times Free Press on Thursday. “The Legislature can do what it wants to, but we’re probably going to extend this grant.”
Local state lawmakers from Hamilton County have been asking questions about the defunding. Earlier this week, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, confirmed he was trying to work out an agreement but declined to discuss details.
TEAM Centers’ interim executive director, Peter Charman, said Thursday that after Henry’s interview with the Times Free Press, the commissioner called him and “told me the grant would be extended through the current fiscal year.”
Charman said the nonprofit group’s board later discussed the offer by telephone and will weigh over the next few days whether it can accept the offer.
The program is slated to end a week from today, and parents whose children are being helped are upset and angry about the situation.
….State officials planned to eliminate continued funding for the grant after discovering it as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “top to bottom review” of state government operations.
Henry said TEAM Centers officials were told they were reducing funding to three months to give the agency time to apply to provide at least some of the services through traditional Medicaid fee-for-services in the home-and-community based waiver program as well as through community fundraising.
“That’s why we gave them the three months,” said Debbie Payne, Henry’s assistant commissioner of community and facility services.
But TEAM officials opted instead to pay off current salary commitments and shutter that portion of their operations.
“It wasn’t feasible to try to do any of those things that quickly, and we’re not sure it would have economically been helpful at all,” Charman said Thursday.
Henry expressed frustration over recent Times Free Press articles and a Times editorial that criticized his handling of the matter.
He said the grant was unusual in nature and perhaps began as a pilot project in 1998 when services for intellectually and developmentally challenged children were handled by the then-Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation
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Budget Reductions at Chattanooga TEAM Inspire Outcry

The Chattanooga TFP reports that supporters of an area health center are in an uproar over a state budget moves that impact a program dealing with autism and related disorders.
They are contacting state legislators, threatening to leave Hamilton County and scorning the age-old Republican line that even the toughest cuts are necessary. They are the friends and relatives of patients at the TEAM Centers Inc. office in Chattanooga, and they aren’t backing down.
On July 13, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities decided against allocating a $774,000 diagnostic and evaluation grant toward what one parent called a “once-in-a-lifetime” clinical program for children and adults with autism, developmental delays and other mental disabilities.
“All the kids have a routine going at TEAM,” said Kay Turner, whose 7-year-old grandson is autistic. “When you get them out of a routine, it messes up their whole system. Parents are talking about moving out of here. Our children are being left behind.”
Entirely separate from that concern is a decision by TEAM’s interim executive director to use state grant money to close the center and pay for employee severance packages. State officials had offered a $193,000 grant to allow TEAM to fund clinical care — diagnoses, therapy and evaluations — through the end of September so families could research other options and TEAM could explore other revenue sources.

Commissioner Sympathizes With Those Facing Cuts in Care for Disabled

The Commercial Appeal focuses on a 20-year-old woman with multiple physical and mental disabilities in a Saturday story on cuts in the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). Stephanie Domm now has two personal assistants to assist her in daily life at her Germantown home. That will change when the cuts take effect July 1.
Stephanie will be one of 680 mentally or physically disabled people in the state who will see their benefits cut for personal assistants and one-on-one home nursing care.
…(DIDD) Commissioner Jim Henry sympathizes with the families who will see their services cut.
“This is very painful for us as a department. This is not easy,” he said.
After cutting $47 million, his agency’s budget is now $757 million. About $44 million in cuts came from phasing out or limiting the state’s institutional care.
With the changes, nursing services will be limited to 12 hours a day. Personal assistance services will be limited to 215 hours a month. No one will have two aides.
The changes likely will mean many families will either hire additional help, increase the work they do themselves or put their loved ones into community-based homes. If families refuse to comply with the new rules, the disabilities agency has threatened to kick them out of the program.
According to Henry, the state set up a system it couldn’t sustain. “There is no other state that offers families two personal assistants,” he said. “What we are offering is community homes or something else.”
“What they are doing is they are totally discounting the care the family provides,” countered Stephanie Domm’s mother, Virginia “Ginna” Domm. “Institutional care is not right for her.”

Henry also this week visited Greeneville, where 313 job positions are being abolished at the DIDD’s Greene Valley Developmental Center. The Greeneville Sun has a shortened version of its story available online (the full version requiring a subscription).