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Governor Makes Surprise Visit To Oakwood

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

SOMERSET, KY--Governor Ernie Fletcher made a surprise visit Wednesday to Communities of Oakwood, Kentucky's largest state-run institution housing about 280 people with intellectual and other disabilities.

Fletcher said he decided to come unannounced to the facility after learning that it would be receiving its 14th "Type A" citation -- the most serious kind an institution can receive -- since January 2005, the Herald-Leader reported.

"Let me say this first: given the citations, the current conditions are not acceptable," Fletcher said. "They're not acceptable because we're concerned about the safety of the residents, concerned about the staff."

"All options are open as to what the future will be for Oakwood," he added, hinting that this could include permanently closing the facility.

Most of the citations concerned abuse and neglect of residents. Two concerned deaths of residents.

That series of citations prompted federal officials to threaten to cut off Medicaid funds in September, but the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed to delay the action while the state appeals the decision, tries to correct problems, and moves some of the residents into the community.

CMS had scheduled a conference call with state officials Thursday to discuss the $40 million the federal government gives Kentucky to operate Oakwood.

The 13th Type A citation concerned a resident who left the facility with a woman who identified herself as his sister. Three days later he called staff to ask for a ride back to Oakwood. He then confessed that the woman was not his sister, and that he drank alcohol, visited a strip club, and had sex with one of three women he stayed with. The facility was cited because it failed to verify and document the woman's claim when she tried to pick him up.

Last week, trial dates were set for this coming July for four Communities at Oakwood employees who have been arrested and charged with wanton neglect related to the deaths.

Liberty Healthcare, a private out-of-state company, has run the institution since November. Liberty's new chief operating officer started work on the day of Fletcher's visit.

During that visit, Fletcher met with employees who told him that most of the citations are caused by staff being forced to work overtime -- even double shifts for several days in a row -- and being moved to and from unfamiliar cottages.

An attorney for one of those charged with crimes told the Herald-Leader that many of Oakwood's 1,000 employees believe that Liberty, which is receiving $9.1 million to operate the troubled facility for eight months, is trying to force state employees to quit in order to make it easier for the state to close Oakwood.

"Fletcher: Oakwood may need to be shut" (Lexington Herald-Leader)

"Oakwood health-center staff 'worn out'" (Courier-Journal)

"Trial dates set for four Oakwood caregivers" (WTVQ)

Communities At Oakwood (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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