RI Consent Decree Coordinator, Tina Spears, To Lead CPNRI, Private Provider Trade Association

Tina Spears * Photo Courtesy CPNRI

Tina Spears * Photo Courtesy CPNRI

By Gina Macris

Tina Spears, who for 16 months has served as Rhode Island’s coordinator for state compliance with a 2014 federal civil rights consent decree affecting adults with developmental disabilities, has resigned to accept a position as executive director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island (CPNRI).

Spears’ last day at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services will be Friday, April 12, according to EOHHS spokesman David Levesque.

Spears has broad experience with issues involving developmental disabilities as a parent, advocate and policy maker, emphasizing the importance of the “consumer voice” throughout all her work, according to a statement from a CPNRI spokesman.

Before joining EOHHS as the state’s consent decree coordinator – a position required by the 2014 agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice - she worked as a fiscal analyst for the state Senate, specializing in human service issues.

Spears also has provided direct support for families as a former government relations director of the Rhode Island Parent Information Network.

CPNRI Board members “were pleased to choose Tina from a pool of highly qualified applicants due to her significant experience advocating for people with disabilities and having worked effectively inside and outside state government,” the Board president, Gloria Quinn, said in a statement.

“We are excited to work with Tina as she leads CPNRI through a pivotal moment” in the transformation of the state’s privately-run service system for adults facing intellectual and developmental challenges, said Quinn. She is executive director of West Bay Residential Services, one of 22 private service agencies that make up CPNRI.

Quinn said members of CPNRI “are confident she will take our association to its next level of impact,” resulting in an improved quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities in Rhode Island.

Spears succeeds Donna Martin, who had served as CPNRI’s executive director from 2005 until March 1.

“The state thanks Tina for her commendable service” as consent decree coordinator, “and we look forward to working with Tina in her new position,” Levesque, the EOHHS spokesman, said in a statement.

Brian Gosselin, the chief strategy officer at EOHHS, will serve as the interim consent decree coordinator while the state searches for a permanent successor to Spears, Levesque said. It will be Gosselin’s second stint as interim coordinator.

“The state values the critical role the consent decree coordinator plays in the success of compliance activities of state agencies” in connection to the consent decree, Levesque said.

Counting Gosselin, there have been five consent decree coordinators since the agreement was signed April 8, 2014 and went into effect the following day.

Tina Spears, RI Senate Fiscal Aide, Named State's Consent Decree Coordinator

By Gina Macris

Tina Spears              photo courtesy state of RI  

Tina Spears              photo courtesy state of RI  

Tina Spears, a policy analyst in the fiscal office of the Rhode Island Senate, has been named the state’s Consent Decree Coordinator. The coordinator is charged with ensuring cooperation among three departments of state government responsible for reinventing daytime services for teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Eric Beane, Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced Spears’ appointment Jan. 12, saying in a statement that she is “well-poised to lead this work, given her longstanding advocacy for children and individuals with disabilities.”

Spears, who has parented a child with a disability, “brings a strong personal commitment to the work” in addition to professional expertise in the state budget and the federal-state Medicaid program which funds developmental disability services, Beane said.

“Her connection to the community and passion for ensuring people have the opportunity to live their life to its fullest potential are welcome additions to the work our team does every day to improve developmental disabilities services in Rhode Island,” Beane said.

Prior to her Senate job, she was government relations director of the Rhode Island Parent Information Network for eight years.

Spears, the fourth consent decree coordinator in three years, succeeds Dianne Curran, who served just seven months before stepping down in September. Curran was preceded by Mary Madden, who stayed in the job a year, from 2016 until 2017, and by Andrew McQuaide, the first coordinator.

In the last several months. Brian Gosselin, Chief Strategic Officer for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, has been filling in as consent decree coordinator.

The state created the coordinator’s position at the insistence of a federal court monitor overseeing implementation of a 2014 consent decree, which maps out what the state must do to correct the overreliance on sheltered workshops and segreated programs that violated the integration mandate of the ADA. The consent decree draws its authority from the Olmstead decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which clarified the requirement for integrated services for individuals with disabilities.

 

Dianne Curran, RI Consent Decree Coordinator, To Leave Post Sept. 30, Citing Personal Reasons

By Gina Macris

 

                                                       This article has been updated .

Dianne Curran                        Photo By Anne Peters

Dianne Curran                        Photo By Anne Peters

Dianne Curran will step down Sept. 30 after seven months as Rhode Island’s consent decree coordinator, a post considered critical to success of the state’s 2014 agreement with the U.S Department Of Justice to reform Rhode Island’s programs for persons with developmental disabilities.

 “I am sad to leave such a competent and hard-working team that is committed to improving the lives of individuals with I/DD (intellectual and developmental disabilities),”  Curran said in a statement which cited "personal reasons" for her departure. She did not elaborate.

Curran is the third consent decree coordinator to serve since the agreement was signed in April, 2014. Curran was preceded by Mary Madden, who served from January, 2016, until the end of March of this year, overlapping Curran’s first month on the job. The first consent decree coordinator was Andrew McQuaide.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) said there is an interim plan to cover the duties of the consent decree coordinator. The spokeswoman, Jenna Mackevich, confirmed Curran's upcoming departure on behalf of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), where Curran reports to Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane.

Until the state finds a qualified successor to Curran, an cross-agency Consent Decree Management Team will shoulder the coordinator's duties, according to an EOHHS spokeswoman, who elaborated on the interim plan. The inter-agency team includes various division leaders and legal staff, who meet regularly, said the spokeswoman, Ashley O'Shea.

The position of the consent decree coordinator is very important in ensuring cooperation among state agencies with responsibilities in implementing the agreement, according to an independent federal court monitor, Charles Moseley. Historically, the various agencies of state government have had the reputation of acting as bureaucratic “silos.”

In addition to BHDDH, the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Office of Rehabilitation Services in the Department of Human Services share responsibility for transforming a system of sheltered workshops and adult day care centers into a network of integrated, community-based services, with an emphasis on regular jobs and personal choice, to comply with the ADA.

With Madden’s arrival early in 2016, Moseley successfully pressed the state to move the position of consent decree coordinator out of BHDDH to the EOHHS, which has authority over both ORS and BHDDH.

Curran has a long and varied career as a disability rights lawyer dating back to 1980, both in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She is a former deputy director at Rhode Island Legal Services and former supervising attorney at what is now the RI Disability Law Center. Working much of the last 20 years in  Massachusetts,  she was deputy general counsel in the Department of Social Services and then held the same position at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

This article has been updated to include details of the interim plan for the state to keep up with the duties of the consent decree coordinator while the state searches for a replacement to Dianne Curran.

DD Service Provider Takes 'Wait and See' Attitude on Budget, Citing History of Disappointment

By Gina Macris

Until Rhode Island’s appropriation for developmental disabilities is released to the agency that administers it, the amount of money that is finally approved by the General Assembly will be  “just a number,” according to a member of the Employment First Task Force who follows legislative affairs.

photo by anne peters 

photo by anne peters 

Tom Kane, (left), CEO of AccessPoint RI, a provider of developmental disability services, said that in the past several years, there have been three unsuccessful attempts to raise the pay of support staff for adults with developmental disabilities.

All the extra money, between $4 million and $9 million in a single fiscal year, has gone instead to fill a structural deficit in the budget of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), Kane said.

On Wednesday, June 15, the House is expected to vote on an appropriation that would add $9.1 million for raises for about 4000 workers and create a new reimbursement method for some two dozen agencies providing most of the direct services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.(

The budget proposal voted out of the House Finance Committee, however, does not include Governor Gina Raimondo’s request for $5.8 million for a caseload increase.

Kane indicated that amount of money could also represent the structural deficit in the next fiscal year's developmental disability budget. BHDDH officials say the deficit averages $4.6 a year.

Based on past experience, the money set aside for raises could once again be reserved to fill the deficit, Kane told the group.

The Employment First Task Force was created by a 2014 federal consent decree to serve as a bridge between the community and state governmental agencies that administer developmental disability services. The decree resulted from a federal investigation that found Rhode Island’s sheltered workshops violated the the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act., clarified in the 1999 Olmstead decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mary Madden, the state’s consent decree coordinator, said, “People at the General Assembly are not into the consent decree at all.”

They don’t understand why developmental disability services cost so much, she said,  because they don’t understand “what it is to provide support 24 hours a day.”

Whatever figure is adopted – the current proposal has a bottom line of about $246 million dollars – the U.S. Department of Justice and an independent court monitor will review it. If either of them has the opinion it is not enough for the state to comply with the consent decree, they could ask the judge in the case to hold a show-cause hearing as to why the state should not be held in contempt.  

Charles Williams to Retire; Second RI Developmental Disabilities Official to Announce Departure

By Gina Macris

Williams                                          Image courtesy BHDDH

Williams                                          Image courtesy BHDDH

Charles Williams, Director of the Division of Disabilities of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), confirmed today (June 3) that he will retire July 22.

 Williams is the second high-profile figure within BHDDH to announce his departure in two days. On June 2, the department director, Maria Montanaro, announced her resignation effective June 24. 

Williams, who joined BHDDH in 2005, said he had always planned to remain in state government for ten years, long enough to become vested in the state pension system. Williams marked his 10th anniversary in state government last October and celebrated his 71st birthday in January. 

In a telephone interview, Williams said that his retirement has nothing to do with either the federal government’s ongoing intervention in daytime programs for adults with developmental disabilities or the recent death of a resident in a group home that is both licensed and run by the state. 

He said the department plans to hire a chief operating officer and an employment specialist to fill out an administrative team in the developmental disabilities unit. Those moves, he contended, will help ensure continuity as BHDDH complies with a 2014 federal consent decree. 

Another position created by BHDDH to respond to the consent decree is that of chief transformation officer. 

Reached by phone, Andrew McQuaide, the transformation officer, declined any comment on whether he will stay with the department. 

BHDDH must comply with a series of strict deadlines in the coming months to start helping more persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities find regular jobs and enjoy activities in their communities, or face possible contempt hearings in U.S. District Court over violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Title II of the ADA, reaffirmed by the 1999 Olmstead decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, is a sweeping mandate requiring states to offer services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the least restrictive environment appropriate for each individual.  

The developmental disabilities division also faces scrutiny of 25 group homes that are both licensed and run by BHDDH. In addition to supervising the developmental disabilities division, Williams heads the residential unit, called Rhode Island Community Living and Supports (RICLAS.) 

A native of Connecticut, Williams had worked as head of preventive services in mental health, behavioral healthcare and developmental disabilities for the state of Missouri before coming to BHDHHD to take a similar position.  

Montanaro put Williams in charge of developmental disabilities when she became Department director, in February, 2015, but did not select a new chief for RICLAS. 

Since early April, it has become evident that Jennifer Wood, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, has taken the lead on the state’s response to the consent decree, providing much of the state’s testimony during a day-long evidentiary hearing on compliance issues in U.S. District Court. 

More recently, when state Senator Louis DiPalma (D-Newport, Middletown, Tiverton and Little Compton) asked for information about BHDDH, he said he was invited to a meeting hosted by Wood; transformation officer McQuaide; the Consent Decree Coordinator, Mary Madden; and Dacia Reed, policy director of the Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet. 

Madden’s job was created at the insistence of the court monitor in the federal case as a secretary-level position with authority to enforce cooperation among three agencies responsible for compliance with the consent decree. Madden reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Elizabeth Roberts, who is also head of the Children’s Cabinet, which was revived by Governor Gina Raimondo in 2015. 

The Children’s Cabinet has an interest in the consent decree because the decree is designed to protect teenagers with developmental disabilities as well as adults. Teenagers often struggle with the transition from special education in high schools to the adult system of developmental disability services. 

Asked about Wood’s future role in connection with developmental disabilities, a spokeswoman for EOHHS issued this statement today: 

“We remain fully committed to meeting the goals of the Consent Decree to provide integrated, community based services for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities. Compliance with the Consent Decree has improved significantly under Director Montanaro’s tenure, and EOHHS Deputy Secretary Jennifer Wood will continue to work with Secretary Roberts and the team at BHDDH, under the leadership of Interim director Becky Boss, to ensure all requirements are met going forward. 

Additionally, Governor Raimondo has included significant funding in her proposed budget, including investments in integrated services. In the weeks ahead, Director Montanaro is committed to working with leaders in the General Assembly to secure the additional funding that Governor Raimondo has recently advocated for to provide higher-quality services for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities.”