recent federal audit made clear, the state of Maine is failing people with disabilities in many ways. Here’s a partial list that should cause outcry from the public and action from the Legislature:
— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services did not investigate
a single one of the 133 deaths of people with developmental
disabilities while under the care of community-based providers across
the state between January 2013 and June 2015. It was required to under
an agreement with the federal government.
— It failed to report suspicious deaths of adults with
developmental disabilities to law enforcement agencies to determine if
crimes had been committed. It’s required to under state law.
— When community providers who care for those with
disabilities told the department about people potentially being
physically or verbally abused, neglected, exploited, sexually abused or
subject to medication errors, the state accepted only 5 percent of
cases, out of 15,897, for an adult protective investigation between 2013
and 2015. The state was required to investigate all cases per the
agreement with the federal government that allows it to receive federal
— DHHS failed to notify
community providers of the results of its investigations. It is
important for those running group homes or overseeing caseworkers to
know the results, so they can remove people from possible danger, and
prevent neglectful or abusive employees from continuing to work with
— The department failed to refer all of the cases of
suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation to a district attorney or
police department for an additional, potential criminal investigation. State law
requires the department to “immediately” inform the appropriate
district attorney’s office of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation.
— Maine lost 16 beds,
likely two-thirds of the state’s capacity, to safely care for people
with intellectual disabilities who are experiencing crises that put them
and the people they live with in unsafe situations when the state’s
contract with a nonprofit provider ended June 30 with no replacement.
The organization gave the state months of warning that it would not
continue the contract because it wasn’t receiving enough funding from
the state to cover costs. Maine law
requires that the state maintain “adequate capacity” to help people
with disabilities who are experiencing a crisis and cannot safely remain
in their own homes.
— DHHS has not made public information about crisis services
for people with intellectual disabilities, such as how many crisis beds
exist, since 2013, leaving providers in the dark about how to handle clients who may harm themselves or others. State law requires the department to publish a report on the matter at least once a year.
— Over the past decade,
direct support providers — those who ensure people with disabilities
take their medication, help them eat and use the bathroom, and run group
homes to provide a safe place for them to live — have faced staffing
shortages and vacancies as reimbursement rates for services paid for by
MaineCare, Maine’s version of Medicaid, have been cut by 30 percent
since 2007. The percentage accounts for inflation. Rates are set by the
— In the past year, a minimum of 24 group homes have closed,
leaving 69 people with disabilities displaced. In about the next six
months, another 12 homes are expecting to close, bringing the total
number of people with disabilities displaced up to 109.
This is a pattern of failure that deserves an outcry from
the public. With DHHS giving no indication it will change course, it
will be up to community members to tell their lawmakers they expect
major improvements. If DHHS won’t change on its own, it will be up to
the Maine Legislature to force it to.
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Here’s a list of the ways Maine is failing its most vulnerable that should prompt action