Home > Uncategorized > Nearly inaccessible DPPC data illustrates widely varying abuse problem among group home providers

Nearly inaccessible DPPC data illustrates widely varying abuse problem among group home providers

An analysis by COFAR of data provided by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) confirms what many families of persons with developmental disabilities know from often bitter experience.

That is that providers to the Department of Developmental Services of residential and other services have widely different track records of abuse and neglect.

Unfortunately, families and guardians must learn about those differences almost exclusively by trial and error. There is currently no online source of comparative information about abuse and neglect among providers in Massachusetts.

In our analysis (see chart below), we were able to identify which providers had the highest numbers of complaints lodged against them, the highest numbers and percentages of substantiated complaints, and the highest numbers and percentages of complaints referred for criminal investigation.

(See complete analysis of all of the providers with highest and lowest results here.)

If family members or guardians or members of the general public wanted this information on an ongoing basis, they would have to do what we did. First, we had to file a Public Records Law request with the DPPC for abuse data broken down by region and provider from Fiscal Year 2010 to the present.

Next we had to sort the regional raw data by provider, which the DPPC provided on spreadsheets, and literally count the number of complaints listed for each provider and the number of substantiations and referrals for investigation. It was a lengthy process that took us weeks to complete.

In sum, we tracked the disposition of more than 14,000 complaints lodged against roughly 120 providers, including DDS itself as a provider of residential services in developmental centers and state-operated group homes.

Of the total complaints tracked, an average of 116 were lodged against individual providers between Fiscal 2010 and 2019.

In addition, an average of 8 complaints per provider, or 6.7% of total complaints against providers, were substantiated after investigations supervised by the DPPC.

Finally, an average of 13 complaints per provider, or 11.2% of complaints, were referred to district attorneys offices for criminal investigation.

DPPC provider abuse data summary chart4

State-operated facilities tend to have lower percentages of substantiated abuse

While two state-operated group home networks had the highest number of complaints in the Northeast and Southeast regions respectively, the state-operated residences had below average percentages of complaints substantiated or referred for criminal investigation.

State-run developmental centers were at the bottom of the list in terms of reported abuse. The former Templeton Developmental Center (now state-operated group homes)  had only 25 complaints lodged in the 10-year time frame, and zero complaints substantiated or referred for criminal investigation.

The Wrentham Developmental Center had 71 complaints, but only 1 substantiated and none referred for criminal investigation. The Hogan Regional Center had 28 complaints, 1 substantiated, and 4 referred for criminal investigation.

Proposed legislation would require DDS to provide information online

Late last year, we asked Representative Daniel Cahill to file a bill in the current legislative session that would require DDS to post easily understandable, comparative information on its website about abuse and neglect and provider performance.

The bill (H.93), which is modeled on an online database in the state of Illinois, has been in the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee since January.

We are urging people to call the Children and Families Committee at (617) 722-2011 (for Rep. Kay Khan, House chair) and (617) 722-1673 (for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate chair), and urge the committee to vote favorably on the bill.

Results broken down by provider and region

In our Public Records request to the DPPC last February, we asked for abuse data broken down by DDS providers from Fiscal Years 2010 to the present. Based on our analysis of that DPPC data, the chart above contains a summary of the providers leading in various measures of abuse in each of five regions of the state.

As reflected in the chart above, among our preliminary findings regarding the DPPC’s data from Fiscal 2010 to 2019 are the following:

  • Vinfen, Inc. had the highest total number of abuse complaints among all providers reviewed in all regions (561). This compares to an average among all of the providers reviewed of 116 complaints.
  • Guidewire, Inc. had the highest number of complaints substantiated (46). This compares to an average among all providers of 8.
  • The Judge Rotenberg Center had the highest number of complaints referred for criminal investigation (80) and the highest percentage of total complaints referred for criminal investigation in a single region (31.82%).
  • The Judge Rotenberg Center led in two separate regions in total complaints or highest percentage of complaints referred for criminal investigation.

The Judge Rotenberg Center has long been a focus of controversy because of its practice of administering electric skin shocks to program clients as a behavior modification technique.

  • The May Institute led in two regions in most complaints substantiated or highest percent substantiated.
  • Community Resources for Justice led in one region in total complaints, total substantiated, and highest number referred for criminal prosecution, and in a second region in highest percent substantiated.

Need for investigation

We’ve sent our findings to the Attorney General’s Office, and intend to provide them to the Inspector General’s Bureau of Program Integrity when we meet with them this week.

We’ve long called for a comprehensive investigation of the DDS corporate provider-based system, which costs the state $1.2 billion per year and involves the operation of more than 1,800 group homes.

While the IG’s Bureau of Program Integrity found in 2017 and 2018 that there were financial irregularities in the state’s much smaller network of some 200 state-operated group homes, the Bureau has so far not issued any similar reports on the privatized provider system. In fact, there has been no systematic investigation, as far as we know, of the provider system in Massachusetts since the 1990s.

In 1997, the Legislature’s House Post Audit and Oversight Committee found problems of abuse, neglect, and financial irregularities throughout the DDS system. The Post Audit report stated that DDS’s oversight of privatized care, in particular, raised “grave doubts about (DDS’s) commitment to basic health and safety issues and ensuring that community placements provide equal or better care for (DDS) clients.”

Some caveats on the DPPC data

Our analysis has involved taking the raw data in each file from the DPPC, sorting that data by provider, and counting the total number of complaints for each provider that appeared to have more than a minimal number of complaints. We also counted the number of complaints substantiated and referred for criminal investigation over the time period for each provider, and then calculated the percentages for each provider of total complaints substantiated and referred. The high numbers in each category are highlighted on the linked spreadsheet.

We would note that many abuse complaints are referred by the DPPC to district attorneys that are screened out for investigation by the DPPC itself because they don’t fall under the DPPC’s statutory jurisdiction. As a result, the number of referrals to the DA’s are often higher than the number of complaints substantiated by either the DPPC or DDS.

One other caveat about this data is that the DPPC has acknowledged to us that the numbers of complaints, substantiations, and referrals in its data refer to intake calls that the DPPC receives regarding abuse. There may be multiple intake calls for each actual occurrence of abuse. So the DPPC numbers may inflate the actual number of cases or occurrences of abuse that the agency investigates or refers for investigation. However, that potential inflation in the numbers shouldn’t affect the relative percentages regarding providers in the data.

  1. itanzman
    September 19, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you so much for this data. It would be helpful to know how many individuals each provider serves. I question whether the higher abuse numbers correlate with serving higher numbers of individuals. My son is served by Amego, Inc. Although abuse is a problem, Amego does not penalize whistleblowers who report abuse and neglect or try to sweep these issues under the rug. I know that other providers do penalize whistleblowers and try to silence credible witnesses to abuse. This might account for the fact that Amego’s percentage of substantiated abuse cases is high. I will contact Khan and Chang-Diaz, but I hope that COFAR will continue to request and analyze these numbers. I am a retired data analyst, so I would be happy to help you analyze the numbers in the future if you need that type of help.


    • September 19, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks, Irene, great points. As part of a follow-up to this analysis, we do plan to try to get information on the total numbers of clients served by each provider. Thanks for the offer to help. We’ll take you up on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maureen Shea
    September 19, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    A ton of work went into this and it is an excellent comprehensive report which just shows the many problems with The DPPC and lack of reporting from “mandated reporters “ ie: that include staff at both agencies as well as Residential Homes. Why?? The reporting on some clients is clearly erroneous and not factual. These agencies are reporting on themselves, and this puts our loved ones in danger. Very good report David, needs to be told. M


  3. Anonymous
    September 21, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Compiling this data required extensive digging and analysis. This information would be a valuable resource for DPPC and DDS to provide families. While the closing of the large institutions was positive, the lack of oversight of contracted providers continues to be a serious problem.


    • September 21, 2019 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for your comment, although we don’t agree that closing the institutions was necessarily positive. We’ve long questioned the savings claims in closing all but two of the state’s remaining developmental centers. The residents who were forced to move out of those facilities and their families were deprived of a residential option. We think developmentally disabled persons, their families, and guardians should have as wide a choice as possible among possible residential settings.


      • Tammie
        September 28, 2019 at 10:27 pm

        closing of facilities and ICF’s is not the answer. It does take away choice from people with idd and their families. The so-called declining population census is a lie because admissions had been closed creating the decrease in numbers. Thanks for all of the hard work put into making Community Home safer.


      • September 29, 2019 at 1:03 am

        Thanks, Tammie!


  4. Former DDS Employee
    October 21, 2019 at 3:40 am

    I worked for Northeast Residential and two vendor agencies over a 15 year period. The care the vendor agencies provided was far superior to the DDS state run homes. I watched union workers in these state run homes neglect resident care, mismanage their funds and SNAP Benefits. I observed residents die because physician orders were not followed. I endured bullying and retaliation in the state setting for reporting deficiencies and substandard care. I had to assist in the hospice process for patients at the families request that resulted in a temporary reprieve from the bullying and mobbing, then it would ramp up right after the resident’s death. The game is played on every level from directors and managers sitting in offices to DSP’s mobbing nurses. The laziest, cruelest and most self centered humans work at the state level. The vendor agencies provide a much higher level of care and are held to a very different standard than the unionized state workers who steal, lie, falsify records and sleep on the job often performing barely a fraction of their job responsibilities. And management sitting in offices over at Hogan Regional are very well aware of the problems but covertly punish those who bring issues to their attention.
    It’s an absolute disgrace that an independent auditing agency outside of Massachusetts isn’t in place to address concerns and the deficiencies. (Then again they could be ‘bought’)
    DPPC is reporting on their people! Oh the cover ups unknown to the public! Licensed personnel are afraid to speak up due to witnessing others who experienced having a ‘target on their back’ and were destroyed or chased out of the system through bullying and lies in their flawless HR files.
    The state operates like an organized crime syndicate and nothing will ever change.
    Of course they throw vendor agencies under the bus, it takes the heat off them.


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