Maher Center Disputes RI's Adverse Licensing Action In Formal Announcement of Appeal

By Gina Macris

The James L. Maher Center in Newport, RI., is “extremely disappointed” with “unsubstantiated conclusions” that it abandoned a young woman with developmental disabilities in its care at Newport Hospital last May, according to William Maraziti, the agency’s executive director.  

In a statement released Nov. 10, the agency says it has filed a formal appeal of an adverse licensing action taken by the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. 

After a four-month inquiry, BHDDH investigators recommended in September that the department’s “licensing unit issue a conditional license to the James L. Maher Center,” according to their September report. 

By early October, licensing officials had followed through, according to a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. 

At the time, Jennifer Wood, the Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services said that even though the case involved the experience of just one client, the investigation raises “systemic issues” about the quality of care and respect for human rights.

The findings demonstrated that the Maher Center is “not reliably following the rules and regulations” of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Wood said. She said a conditional license, good for six months, is the equivalent of a probationary license.

But the Maher Center says that the “flawed investigation resulted in the downgrading to ‘conditional status’ the state license on one of the Maher Center’s 11 group homes.” 

“Recent media reports wrongly implied that the action was taken against the Maher Center’s agency license, which is the Center’s authority to provide services as a developmental disability organization,” the statement said. 

“By availing itself of the appeal process, the Maher Center intends to remove this unjust blemish on its 63-year record,” the statement continued. 

“We have never abandoned any of our participants – and certainly didn’t in this circumstance,” Maraziti said, calling the investigators’ report “inflammatory” and its allegations “without merit.”   

A spokeswoman for Wood confirmed in October that the Maher Center had begun the appeal process. 

The first step in the process is a meeting with investigators to determine if differences can be resolved, and the next step is a request for a hearing before an EOHHS hearing officer, according to the spokeswoman. 

The agency’s statement offered no details about the formal appeal, and through a spokesman, Maher Center officials declined to answer questions.