Auditor Faults Lax Laws For Oakwood Contracting Woes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 23, 2006
SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--Residents of Kentucky's largest institution have suffered an increase of abuse and neglect while operated by private companies under contracts that do not have enough standards and oversight to ensure their health and safety, a state audit has revealed.
In a report released last Thursday, State Auditor Crit Luallen reportedly focused on the millions of dollars worth of contracts with private companies to serve residents of Communities at Oakwood, which houses 250 people with developmental disabilities, in recent years.
Luallen said that state contracting laws have so many loopholes that nearly every contract could be exempt from state oversight.
In the past 22 months, Oakwood has been cited 24 times for jeopardizing the health and safety of residents. Most of those citations were issued after day-to-day operations shifted from the state to Liberty Healthcare under a multi-million dollar contract last fall.
"The situation at Oakwood has been a travesty,'' Luallen said.
According to the Courier-Journal, Luallen's report includes 22 recommendations, such as eliminating many of the exemptions in state laws that agencies use to by-pass oversight.
The non-profit Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board is set to manage Oakwood under a new contract that begins November 1. State officials have expressed confidence that conditions for Oakwood residents will improve, partly because all workers will be employees of Bluegrass, and would be exempt from state merit rules.
Fifteen former Oakwood employees have been arrested in the past two years and charged with abusing and neglecting residents.
Dozens of people have moved out of Oakwood and into homes in the community in recent months.
"Report: Kentucky's privatization laws are ineffective" (Associated Press via Herald-Leader)
"Communities At Oakwood" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)