Feds Renew Threat To Withhold Oakwood Funds
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 15, 2006
SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--The state of Kentucky is looking at ways to continue operating an institution housing 255 people with developmental disabilities if the federal government pulls what amounts to 70 percent of the facility's funding.
Last September, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid threatened to withhold Medicaid funding for the Communities at Oakwood following a series of citations for abuse and neglect of residents. The state appealed, and hired an outside agency, Liberty Healthcare, to operate the facility and bring it back in line with treatment guidelines.
But the safety and health of residents have continued to be at risk. Earlier this month, the facility received its 21st Type A citation -- the most serious kind -- since January 2005, after an investigation found that three staff members had beaten a resident with a broom in June. Staff had also kicked the same resident earlier in the year, the Courier-Journal reported.
The investigation also concluded that Oakwood's in-house investigator initially ignored reports that staff members were beating the man, who has autism and other disabilities.
One staff member who claims she witnessed the abuse said an employee involved in the incident had threatened to come to her house and kill her if she reported what she saw.
Fifteen Oakwood employees have been arrested in the past two years on charges of criminal neglect or physical abuse after state regulators found evidence that residents had been kicked, punched, shoved into walls and thrown to the floor.
In an August 9 letter, CMS told officials with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services officials that it would lose $43 million in Medicaid money if the state cannot prove that conditions at Oakwood have improved. The cabinet has until September 9 to submit the information, at which time a 30-day review period would begin.
Also on August 9, state officials asked a legislative committee for permission to set aside extra money to operate Oakwood if Liberty's contract is not renewed on October 31.
In the meantime, a Kentucky State Police officer has been posted at the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Another cabinet department will also hire additional full-time staff to monitor the treatment of residents at Oakwood.
"Oakwood cited in resident's beating" (Courier-Journal)
"Low wages, poor training hurt facilities for mentally retarded" (Associated Press)
"Oakwood could lose $43 million" (Herald-Leader)
"Officials weighing 'contingency plans' to staff Oakwood" (Courier-Journal)