By Gina Macris
A public hearing Sept. 17 on proposed regulations for developmental disability services in Rhode Island lasted less than 15 minutes – a brevity which seemed to reflect well on the state’s rule makers and the committees that helped streamline hundreds of pages of material, some of which dated back more than a decade.
Donna Martin, executive director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island (CPNRI), said as much. She commended all state officials involved in drafting the proposed regulations, particularly those in the Office of Facilities and Program Standards and Licensure, “for their fidelity to an open stakeholder engagement process as these regulations were reviewed and updated.” The office is part of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
Representatives of service providers, families, advocacy organizations, and adult consumers of services all participated in a review process launched a year ago.
Martin did find some terminology that she said needed correcting. She said those in the developmental disability community take exception to the identification of some among them as “patients” who may be “mentally retarded.”
The term is so offensive to those with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their supporters that there is a national campaign to eradicate it. It’s called “Spread The Word To End The Word”.
In 2010, Congress passed Rosa’s Law to replace the term “mental retardation” with the words “intellectual disability” in relevant federal statutes. Most states have followed the federal government’s lead, according to the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.
The lone instance Martin spotted in the overall proposal was not in developmental disability regulations themselves, but in a department-wide rule regarding the duty of certain officials to report suspected neglect or abuse of vulnerable individuals.
Martin also objected to proposed regulations she said would be burdensome or costly for private service providers, including:
having to pay for background checks for potential employees. “This is a costly, unfunded mandate, and we urge the state to enact a policy that aligns with state statute ensuring that the state pays for or reimburses” developmental disability and behavioral healthcare providers for these costs, she said.
treating outside providers of temporary “respite” care as agency employees, which would “require a significant change in policy and practice and was not vetted as part of the stakeholder process.”
keeping health care records for 10 years instead of the current 7 years.
requiring agency staff to receive four hours a year of fire safety training, which is “excessive and reduces the available training time (for) other equally important issues.” Instead, regulations should “suggest that all staff receive annual fire safety training.”
In another comment, Martin said that the definition of the “staff” of developmental disability service organizations licensed by the state should not include interns or volunteers, who are not employed by these providers.
The public comment period ends Oct. 6. Comments may be addressed to Gail Theriault, Esq., Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, Office of Legal Counsel, Hazard Building, 41 West Rd.,Room 241, Cranston, RI 02920.