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Oakwood Receives New Abuse Citation, As Officials Tell Feds New Operators Will Protect Residents
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 26, 2006

SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--Last Friday, Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, telling the federal agency that the state deserves to continue receiving money to operate Communities at Oakwood, an institution that houses 250 people with developmental disabilities.

That same day, the state's inspector general issued Oakwood its 24th Type A citation -- the kind given when conditions put residents at risk of serious injury or death -- since January 2005.

According to the Herald-Leader, this latest citation was given because a resident with a history of eating non-food objects swallowed a small pencil sharpener at one of the facility's cottages in June. The woman had a behavior plan designed to keep her from eating such things, but the staff failed to follow it, the citation noted. Weeks after the incident, employees told inspectors that they still had not been trained on how to keep the woman from eating inedible objects.

It was the second Type A citation the facility had received that week. On Wednesday, Cabinet officials announced that the facility had been cited over a July 4 struggle between two staff members and a male resident that caused an injury requiring the surgical removal of the man's testicle.

Last fall, CMS threatened to withdraw $43 million in Medicaid funds from Oakwood -- about two-thirds of its budget -- because of ongoing problems with abuse and neglect. But the federal agency has continued to fund the institution while the state appeals that decision.

The state then decided to contract with a private company, Liberty Healthcare, to manage the day-to-day operations at Oakwood. But the problems have continued and Liberty has racked up fines totaling $50,000 in recent months.

Last month, CMS gave the state 30 days to prove that Oakwood's residents would be safe.

According to the Courier-Journal, Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell told the federal agency in Friday's 26-page letter, that it has signed a contract with the non-profit Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board to replace Liberty. This, Birdwhistell said, would be a major improvement, because Bluegrass has a proven track record with the state, and it will have more flexibility in disciplining employees.

Fifteen former Oakwood employees have been arrested in the past two years and charged with abusing and neglecting residents. Cabinet officials have said that problem employees continued to work with residents because the state employees' merit system has made it difficult to reprimand or terminate them. When Bluegrass takes over, all Oakwood workers will be Bluegrass employees.

Birdwhistell added that so far this month 43 residents have moved into homes in the community and one has moved to a nursing facility. Another 62 are planning to move out in the near future.

Oakwood cited for 2nd time in week (Louisville Courier-Journal)

State tries to save Oakwood funding (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Official hopeful on Oakwood funding (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Communities At Oakwood (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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