By Gina Macris
With less than two months remaining before the state of Rhode Island decides whether to shut down a subsidiary of the New York-based Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, licensing officials at the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) are still collecting evidence that will have a bearing on the state’s decision.
The performance of Community Work Services (CWS), which also has come under criticism by federal officials, is expected to figure in a U.S. District Court hearing Nov. 30 about a 2013 settlement of disability rights violations involving CWS and its predecessor, the now-defunct sheltered workshop Training Through Placement (TTP.)
In an interview Nov. 3, the director of licensing for BHDDH, Kevin Savage, said that the probationary status of CWS, in effect for nearly a year, “has not been resolved.” Licensing regulations place a 12-month limit on probation.
A federal court monitor said during a court hearing in May that the number of former TTP clients who had found jobs had been “essentially flat” for the previous four years. A lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice also cited a lack of progress that was evident during a site visit earlier in the spring. About half of individuals protected by the 2013 agreement – 62 individuals at last count – are currently served by CWS.
In an interview Nov. 3, Savage, the BHDDH licensing administrator, said that the most recent "monitor’s report is primarily about the programming, and the programming issue is not resolved.
“We’re reading the monitor’s reports and our own reports,” Savage said, and “we are not satisfied with the program resolution.”
Savage said that BHDDH will continue – “and I want the word 'continue' to be clear” – to look at “every aspect of what CWS does, including payment structures, including respite (care), and including how they work with families and participants – everything.”
Savage also said, “I think it’s okay to say we are accumulating evidence. They (CWS) know that, and I think it’s okay for the public to know that. The evidence speaks to whether they should be shut down, or whether they should not be shut down. Evidence does that.”
“Our goal, and our only goal, is to ensure that participants have the best service available that is possible,” he said. “We’ve communicated that clearly to the providers we work with and the families we work with. Our job is not to protect businesses. Our job is to protect participants.”
CWS has been on probation since the beginning of 2017. BHDDH licensing officials shut down its operation at the former TTP building at 20 Marblehead Ave., North Providence, in March because of unsafe conditions - a problem separate from programmatic concerns - but the agency re-opened with state permission in different quarters a few days later.
In this and any other probationary case, Savage said, the public has the right to know the “final agency action.” Adverse decisions may be appealed by the agencies in question, he said.
The performance of CWS is entwined in the state’s accountability to the federal court for satisfying the demands of the 2013 settlement agreement that protect special education students at Mount Pleasant High School, including the former Birth Academy, and former clients of TTP - a total of 126 individuals.
A broader agreement between the state and the DOJ signed in 2014 covers all adults with developmental disabilities who have at one time been segregated in either sheltered workshops or day centers - more than 3,000 people. .
In connection with the so-called "Interim Settlement Agreement" of 2013, the federal court monitor, Charles Moseley, said in a report to the court in September that the state has missed two deadlines in an order issued by Judge John J. McConnell, Jr: They are
- A July 30 deadline for improving the quality of individual career development plans among CWS clients.
- A June 30 deadline for verifying the accuracy of data reported by CWS on its clients’ progress.
So-called “career development plans” describe how current services and plans for the near future fold into blueprints for life-long work goals that are supposed to take into account both the needs and preferences of individuals with developmental disabilities.
The November 30 hearing is listed on the U.S. District Court calendar in connection with the statewide 2014 consent decree, but the state's interim Consent Decree Coordinator, Brian Gosselin, said recently at a public forum on developmental disability issues that the session will deal instead with the more narrow Interim Settlement Agreement of 2013, which was last heard in late May. A separate hearing on the status of the statewide consent decree is expected to be scheduled for the end of January, six months after its most recent hearing in late July.