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Mental Health

Feds slam care at Augusta facility for disabled

A federal agency has warned Georgia officials that it will end Medicaid payments to an Augusta facility for the developmentally disabled unless the state improves conditions there.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in an August report, said the state-run Gracewood Developmental Center has repeatedly failed to ensure the safety of patients, who have been subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

dbhdd-logo-blueGracewood patients “sustained physical injuries of unknown origin and/or verbal abuse that were not thoroughly investigated,” the inspection report stated. “The facility continues to not have a system in place to ensure that the clients were not subjected to physical, verbal, and/or psychological abuse.”

The feds also described inadequate employee training and frequent failure to investigate possible instances of abuse.

The head of the facility has resigned, said Frank Berry, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), at an agency board meeting Aug. 28.

DBHDD, meanwhile, is overhauling its processes regarding people with developmental disabilities whom it serves.

The Aug. 26 letter from CMS comes as the state agency is under pressure over its care of these people, including moving patients out of state hospitals. full story

Nightmare for vulnerable: Unlicensed care homes

The investigation of a South Georgia unlicensed personal care home began with the report of a resident of the facility breaking into a nearby home to get food.

Law enforcement officials later raided the care facility, called Uplift, which housed people with mental illness and disabilities.

Sen. Renee Unterman

Sen. Renee Unterman

Conditions were horrifying.

“All these people were hungry,’’ said Morven Police Lt. Terry Griffin, according to a Valdosta Daily Times article. The facility was infested with insects, and there was no air conditioning.

State and local agencies helped transfer Uplift residents to other facilities. “People started clapping in the breezeway, even crying. They were so happy to leave,” Griffin said.

These relocations are becoming commonplace in Georgia. Since June, law enforcement and state officials have transferred a total of 55 people from 10 unlicensed personal care homes, including Uplift, members of a legislative committee were told Tuesday.

The state has seen an increase in complaints about alleged abuse of adults at such unlicensed facilities, state officials told the legislative Joint Study Committee on Emergency Relocation of Abused Adults, meeting in Lawrenceville.

“This issue we have to address,’’ said state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, citing “unbelievable conditions’’ in some of the residences. full story

Transfers of disabled patients still a problem

Almost 10 percent of the 480 people with developmental disabilities who have moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 have died after their placement in community residences.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, when asked about deaths after hospital transfers, told GHN that 44 occurred from mid-2010 to early May of this year.

dbhdd-logo-blueOn Sunday, Alan Judd, in an AJC article, described horrific incidents of abuse or neglect following the transfer of these patients into group homes. Forty patients placed in group homes have died, Judd reported, with 30 of those deaths classified as unexpected.

Many of the deaths appeared to be from natural causes, Judd reported.

The article also said that officials documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse; 48 of neglect; and 60 accidental injuries.

In March, an independent reviewer reported that Georgia was failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who had been moved from state hospitals to community group homes. full story

Report: Developmentally disabled need better care

An independent reviewer reports that Georgia is failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who are moved from state hospitals to community group homes.

The reviewer, in a report dated March 23, says there is an “urgent need to ensure competent and sufficient health practitioner oversight of individuals who are medically fragile and require assistance with most aspects of their daily lives.”

Frank Berry

Frank Berry

The reviewer, Elizabeth Jones, notes in the report that two individuals with developmental disabilities died shortly after being moved from Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, which recently closed, to community settings.

The report also points out that state officials terminated three providers of services for poor quality of care.

Frank Berry, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, said Thursday in an interview with GHN that the agency has halted hospital discharges of people with developmental disabilities into community settings until improvements are made. full story

Busy day for health bills at Capitol

The sponsor of a medical marijuana bill said Monday after a three-hour legislative hearing that the proposal must get significant revisions before it can move forward in the Georgia General Assembly.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was unsure of the specific changes needed to House Bill 885 that would give Georgia children, who have no other treatment options, the opportunity to receive therapeutic cannabidiol to treat their seizures.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingPeake’s efforts, though, drew support from the vast majority of people who packed the hearing room, including parents who tearfully testified their children suffer multiple seizures a day.

Physicians who testified at the House Health and Human Services Committee hearing agreed that the therapeutic oil, which does not have the psychoactive qualities of typical marijuana, has proved effective in providing relief from seizures, but needs more thorough study.

The legislation is scheduled for another hearing Thursday.

The medical marijuana testimony was part of a busy health care day at the Capitol, as lawmakers continued to work hard to move key legislation in a compressed time period. This year’s legislative session is a short one because party primaries will be held unusually early.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday approved a revamp of the state’s child welfare services; a bill to increase monitoring of the state’s community service boards; and a proposal that would allow public health officials to inform medical providers of a patient’s HIV status if the patient is not in treatment. full story

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