RI EOHHS Clarifies Status of Probationary DD License Involving Maher Center in Newport

By Gina Macris

The James L. Maher Center of Newport is correct in saying that the state has not downgraded the developmental disability service license of the entire agency, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Human Services (EOHHS) said Tuesday, Nov. 15. 

The Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) has put one group home, at 228 Carroll Ave., on conditional, or probationary, status as a result of an internal investigation that found its staff abandoned a resident at Newport Hospital May 3, according to the spokeswoman.

But Jennifer Wood, the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, says that "the accountability for the failure to comply with regulations and requirements at the Carroll Avenue group home resides with the management of the agency as a whole." 

The Maher Center has appealed the conditional license, which lasts for six months. During that period the agency is subject to heightened oversight by the state, according to Wood.

On Nov. 16, Wood elaborated: "In the currently pending matter BHDDH will prove that the agency did not operate that home consistent with the regulations, and unless they prove that they are operating consistent with the rules during the conditional license period, they may not be able to retain a license to operate that home in future.  

"If we also learn that other homes for which they are licensed are not operating consistent with the regulations, then we would take additional action regarding the licenses for those other facilities. We are very committed to more closely supervising the agency and in particular the management of the agency regarding the appropriate operation of the Carroll Avenue group home as well as all homes operated by the agency," Wood said Nov. 16.

The Maher Center will have its say before an EOHHS hearing officer, according to the EOHHS spokeswoman, but that session has not yet been scheduled. 

The Maher Center’s executive director, William Maraziti, issued a statement Nov. 10 denying the agency has ever abandoned any client. 

The agency is “extremely disappointed” with a “flawed investigation” that led to “unsubstantiated conclusions” by the BHDDH investigatory unit, according to the statement Nov. 10. 

Wood has 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 Maher Center has 16 licenses, according to the EOHHS spokeswoman. They cover: 

  • 12 residential licenses (1 for each residential home)
  • 1 agency license (the corporate “overall” license/oversight license)
  • 2 center based day program licenses (for non-residential day programs)
  • 1 service license (license that identifies all services that agency can provide)