An Augusta facility for the developmentally disabled has been certified by the feds after the state corrected significant problems with patient safety there. The...

An Augusta facility for the developmentally disabled has been certified by the feds after the state corrected significant problems with patient safety there.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, has notified the state that the Gracewood Developmental Center is now in “substantial compliance’’ with U.S. regulations.

dbhdd-logo-blueThe Georgia Department of  Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) had been warned in August that CMS would end Medicaid payments for Gracewood care unless the state improved conditions there.

A CMS inspection report had said the facility repeatedly failed to ensure the safety of patients, who were subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman for DBHDD, said Thursday that the agency’s team at Gracewood had made “dramatic improvements’’ there. “The letter from CMS is important evidence of our ability to lead effective change and deliver on our commitment to high-quality care.”

The CMS report had said Gracewood patients “sustained physical injuries of unknown origin and/or verbal abuse that were not thoroughly investigated.”

The state has been overhauling its services for the developmentally disabled, including moving these patients out of state hospitals and into residential settings in the community.

ECRH_Gracewood_Sign_0That’s a priority for Georgia under its 2010 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under the terms of that pact, Georgia agreed to establish community services for about 9,000 people with mental illness, and to create community support and crisis intervention teams to help people with developmental disabilities and mental illness avoid hospitalization.

According to a report by an independent reviewer, the state is still out of compliance with the settlement agreement on serving people with developmental disabilities.

Earlier this year, the  reviewer, Elizabeth Jones, reported Georgia was failing to provide adequate supervision of these individuals who had been moved from state hospitals to community group homes.

This past summer, media outlets reported that almost 10 percent of the 480 Georgians with developmental disabilities who had moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 had died after being placed in community residences.

DBHDD has halted such placements of people with developmental disabilities from hospitals into community settings, citing concerns about the quality of care provided.

The agency’s director of developmental disabilities, Dan Howell, told GHN on Thursday that the state is getting ready to resume those placements, focusing on the Augusta region first.

A total of 265 individuals with developmental disabilities currently live at Gracewood or at Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta, and four others reside at the Craig Center in Milledgeville.

Many of these individuals are medically fragile or have complex health issues, state officials say.

Howell said the state wants to ensure that the proper community services and providers are in place before restarting the transitions from state institutions.

“We’ll do it individually, based on an individual’s needs and providers’ training and willingness and ability’’ to care for these patients, Howell said.


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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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