News Article Details

Officials discuss oversight of group homes

Observer-Dispatch - 9/24/2017

Sept. 24--The leak of a recent investigation into neglect at a group home in Rome has led to increased scrutiny of oversight of group homes for those with developmental disabilities or with mental illness.

These residences are regulated by either the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities or the New York State Office of Mental Health. Incidents at these homes and allegations of neglect or abuse are investigated by the state Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs.

Here's what some people in the field said about oversight:

Doug Cooper, associate executive director, Association for Community Living, a trade association of mental health housing providers in the state

Since the state moved the vast majority of patients out of state psychiatric hospitals, many residents with serious mental illnesses are now housed in residences unofficially known as group homes. These group homes are generally transitional, meaning residents are getting the help they need to live independently again someday, he said. Residents of these group homes are getting treatment and are generally less vulnerable to abuse than people with developmental disabilities in group homes, Cooper said.

"Obviously in any system -- we're big -- there's bad players everywhere," he said. But the level of incidents is not as high in mental health group homes as in those for developmental disabilities."

Kathy Klosner, senior vice president, Upstate Cerebral Palsy

Every individual in a group home under the developmental disabilities office has an individual plan of protective oversight, which drives the staffing levels need in the home and which the state checks to make sure the plan is being met, she said.

State inspectors visit the homes for a day or two at a time, review residents' records and talk to residents and their families, she said. The justice center adds another layer of review, she said.

"There's a number of bodies that are always watching and looking at making sure that we're doing what we say we're going to do."

Upstate also has internal compliance and quality reviews, including peer review teams, to make sure it's doing a good job, she said. It also emphasize staff training, she said.

Lorene Bass, executive vice president supports and services, Arc Herkimer

Group homes are subject to many regulations, reviews, inspections and audits, she said. On top of that, the agency takes a proactive approach including an extensive training program for employees including education, health care and abuse prevention, she said. Staff are trained to help each individual in their care "to ensure that we are caring for people medically, we're caring for people emotionally and that staff have the ability to interact with people in a positive manner," Bass said.

Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State, member of the justice center advisory committee

People think of the bad employees in the system when they hear about the justice center, Liebmann said.

"But that happens to a fraction of the agencies. The justice center is incredibly significant in terms of outreach and engagement and recognition of the 99 percent of the workforce in direct care that is doing wonderful work and great work in the community," he said.

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(c)2017 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

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