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DDS group home licensure reports are heavily redacted

May 8, 2012

Citing privacy concerns, the Department of Developmental Services appears to routinely withhold critical information from public disclosure about the quality and conditions in group homes in Connecticut for people with intellectual disabilities.

Our family-based Southbury Training School Home & School Association was advised by DDS that we would have to file Freedom of Information Act requests for any detailed information about licensing deficiencies found in specific group homes.   However, when we did so for two selected group homes, we received documents from DDS that were either missing pages relating to what appeared to be potentially serious deficiency citations or were so heavily redacted that little or no information could be gleaned from them.

In particular, information in DDS documents relating to citations for “Ongoing health and injury” in the selected group homes were heavily redacted or missing entirely.

The paucity of information available from DDS raises questions about how Southbury Training School guardians, in particular, can make “informed decisions” about community-based placements.  Such informed decisions by guardians are a key requirement of the 2010 Messier v. STS settlement agreement, which established a process to evaluate all STS residents for possible community-based care.

“Inspection Report Summaries” for group homes, which are available on the DDS website, provide only lists of deficiency citations for individual group homes.  A typical Inspection Report Summary for a group home will list such things as “Hazard prevention,” or “Ongoing health and injury,” with no explanation or comment other than a reference to the state regulation that appplies to each citation.

(The Inspection Report Summaries, by the way, are difficult even to find on the DDS website.)

In one instance, a Plan of Correction for a group home in Danbury, which was received from DDS via an FOIA request, was virtually entirely redacted.  All commentary in the Plan of Correction relating to two citations listed in an online Inspection Report Summary for the home, dated October 22, 2010, was blacked out.  The Inspection Report Summary listed citations for an “Ongoing health and injury” issue and for “POC (Plan of Correction) implementation timeliness,” apparently referring to previous citations of the home.

In a second instance, a Plan of Correction for a group home in Stamford was missing pages 3 through 7, which apparently deal with an ongoing health and injury citation as well as other health services citations for the residence.  Those citations are listed in an online Inspection Report Summary, dated June 15, 2010. 

In addition, the Stamford group home Plan of Correction has a number of handwritten notations on it, making it difficult to tell, among other things, whether a citation of the home for failing to have a fire marshal’s certificate was corrected. 

In an April 26 email, a DDS communications official stated that the department would not release any information in the licensure reports that is “related to an individual.”

The DDS website also provides what is termed Quality Service Review (QSR) information about individual providers of services in group homes.  This online information, however, is also very limited in scope as well as being difficult to find on the DDS website.  Moreover,  full QSR reports provided by DDS via FOIA requests, were also heavily redacted.

The QSR information on the DDS website for each provider consists of a one-to-two-page “Provider Profile” supplemented by a Provider-to-Statewide Comparison chart containing numerical rating scores for the provider’s programs.  These scores are organized according to categories such as Health & Wellness and Safety. 

The Provider Profiles are written by the providers themselves and appear to consist entirely of marketing information about their programs.  While this information can be informative, it appears to provide no insight into the quality of care provided in the group homes. 

The Provider-to-Statewide Comparison charts contain numerical scores for the providers’ programs and allow the reader to compare the scores for each provider with statewide averages.  However, the charts provide no detailed information about any quality-of-care problems implied in the scoring system, and do not identify any group homes in which the problems may exist.

In response to an FOIA request, DDS provided two QSR reports for one of the two providers selected — ARI, Inc.  One of these reports appears to consist, in part, of responses to a series of consumer satisfaction “indicators” for one unidentified individual, starting with the indicator, “Are you happy where you live?”  All of the responses to these indicators are redacted in the report.  The location of the group home in which this individual lives is redacted as well. 

The second QSR report appears to consist of a series of additional indicators that are evaluated in what appears to be one group home operated by ARI, Inc.  Again, the location is redacted as is much of the information in the report. 
In order for the “informed decision” requirement in the Messier settlement to have any meaning, we think DDS needs to do at least three  things:
1.  Rethink and revise its policy of redacting or otherwise withholding information in group home licensure reports.  We believe there are ways available to provide detailed information about deficiencies without identifying individual clients in the homes.
2.  Revise the format and content of DDS’s group home licensure reports to make them understandable and informative to the outside reader.
3.  Revise the group home licensure information on the DDS website to make it meaningful and informative to the outside reader, and make the information easy to find on the site. 
In a new post (coming soon), we discuss our finding that reports based on federally supervised inspections of the Southbury Training School are far more detailed than the DDS group home licensure reports and contain few, if any, redactions.

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