DDS reforms underway after audit flags issues

Boston Statehouse
state auditor suzanne bump_355261

BOSTON (State House News Service)–The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has sent an advisory to all providers, formed an internal group and shored up its oversight of investigation reports after Auditor Suzanne Bump flagged a handful of areas in which the agency’s failure to follow prescribed timelines led to “higher-than-acceptable” risks to clients.

In an audit published by Bump’s office last week, investigators found that DDS did not consistently meet its deadlines for developing action plans for alleged victims of abuse or mistreatment, did not make sure its provider-operated group homes submitted and finalized incident reports within the allowed timeframe, did not properly manage all administrative reviews, did not always issue investigation decision letters within required timeframes, and did not ensure that its employees always received security awareness training.

“Protecting individuals with disabilities is one of the most critical missions and responsibilities of state government. Every instance where an abuse investigation deadline or timeframe is missed, the gaps in safety and care increase. It’s clear the Department of Developmental Services must work with urgency to close those gaps,” Bump said of the audit that looked at DDS from July 2017 through June 2019. DDS serves about 32,000 adults and more than 9,000 children with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and oversees more than 2,100 group homes.

After the auditor’s office completed its review, DDS’s Office of Quality Enhancement issued an advisory to all providers impressing “the importance of timely submission of incident reports.” DDS formed internal working groups “to employ data analytics strategies to ensure the timely submission of incident reports by DDS providers” and to “develop and implement systems for the monitoring of timeframes for completion of action plans and administrative reviews across the state.”

The agency also “formalized” its monitoring of investigation report and decision letter timeliness, DDS said in its post-audit update. Based on the actions DDS has taken since Bump’s office wrapped up its review of the agency, the auditor said she is comfortable that DDS is doing what is necessary to remedy the issues of concern she noted in her office’s report.

“I’m encouraged by the initial steps DDS has taken and hope the agency continues to use our audit as a tool towards enhanced safety protocols for abuse, medical mistreatment, and neglect of individuals with disabilities,” Bump said.

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