Thursday, September 07, 2006

Justice Department Gives Oakwood Five More Years to Shape Up

See this article by that title from the Ragged Edge website. It begins:

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement agreement with the state of Kentucky giving it five years to make changes to ensure that the 254 residents at Communities at Oakwood are protected from harm, and have adequate supports and services.

The settlement may mean little, however, if the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid decides this month to withdraw $43 million in federal funding for the facility.

The Justice Department has been monitoring conditions at Oakwood since 2001, when federal investigators found widespread problems of abuse and neglect of the adults with developmental disabilities housed at the institution. That led to a 2004 "memorandum on understanding" signed by state and Justice Department officials designed to improve conditions.

Conditions have not improved. In fact, since January 2005, the state's own inspector general with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has given Oakwood its most serious 'Type A' citation 22 times for abuse and neglect. In the past two years, 15 Oakwood employees have been charged with mistreating residents. Just last month, one former employee was sentenced to two years in prison for abusing a resident.

According to a DOJ statement released Thursday, the new agreement "replaces and strengthens" the 2004 out-of-court settlement. Justice Department officials said key differences include the fact that this time a federal judge will monitor conditions at Oakwood, and that the state could be found in contempt of court and fined if those conditions are not improved.

However, Wes Butler, general counsel for Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Thursday's settlement agreement is nearly identical to the 2004 memorandum of understanding.


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