AUGUSTA, Maine — Parents on Wednesday called for an independent review of deaths of adults with developmental disabilities and autism that occur in group homes in Maine, a request that comes months after a federal audit of group homes found the state was failing to protect such vulnerable residents.
The state’s Developmental Services Oversight and Advisory Board is tasked with overseeing programs and services for adults with intellectual disabilities or autism, but its representatives say the state has refused to provide data needed it carry out its mission.
“We are unable to do what the law has set forth as a protection for people like my son,” said Kim Humphrey, who is awaiting her gubernatorial appointment to the board and has been attending meetings since being nominated as a member in 2016. Her 28-year-old son, Daniel, has severe autism and other disorders and lives in a Lewiston group home.
Maine law says the Department of Health and Human Services must provide the board with data and reports about issues such as case management, adult protective and rights investigations. The advisory board’s representatives also accuse the administration of failing to fill vacancies on the panel, which state law says should consist of 15 members.
Amy MacMillan, acting director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Aging and Disability Services, said her department hasn’t provided the oversight board with data on disabled adults because of confidentiality and protocol concerns following a 2016 potential data breach.
“The (board) reported they had terminated an employee, permitted the employee to retain access to confidential documents for multiple days, and did not have a way to ensure that the terminated employee no longer had access to confidential information,” MacMillan said at a Wednesday hearing. MacMillan deferred comment on vacancies to Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s office, which didn’t immediately comment Wednesday.
Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee on Wednesday began considering legislation to ensure that all deaths and serious injuries are investigated. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found such concerns in Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is now analyzing all deaths of people with intellectual disabilities or autism and forwarding details of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation to law enforcement and Maine’s chief medical examiner, MacMillan said.
“We’re at a very different point in time today as we were at the point of the OIG report,” she said.