Archive for December, 2019

A tribute to Tom Doherty and to the Wrentham Developmental Center

December 25, 2019 3 comments

(Note: We are reprinting a recent letter to Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Jane Ryder from Mary Ann Ulevich, a cousin and sole guardian of Thomas Doherty. Tom, who was a resident of the Wrentham Developmental Center, died on October 24 at the age of 68.

Mary Ann is a COFAR member and a member of the Wrentham Board of Trustees and of the Wrentham Family Association.)

November 15, 2019

Jane F. Ryder, Commissioner
Department of Developmental Services
500 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Dear Commissioner Ryder,

Thank you for your letter of condolence following the death last month of my cousin Thomas Doherty, for whom I was guardian, at Wrentham Developmental Center.

I want you to know how pleased I, and Tom’s family, have been with Tom’s care throughout his more than 46 years as a client of DDS. When Tom returned home to Woburn, MA, from more than 10 years at Devereux Center in Pennsylvania, he was placed at Templeton Developmental Center (then part of Fernald Center). He enjoyed frequent visits with his parents in Woburn, and thrived in the Templeton community.

Following his mother’s death in 1997, I was named co-guardian with his aunt. Since 1998, I have been his sole guardian. When Templeton was closing in 2011, I had the daunting task of deciding upon an alternate placement for him. Recognizing that he had been in care facilities for almost 40 years and was thriving and happy, and in consultation with DDS staff, I decided to place Tommy at Wrentham Developmental Center. I believe this decision honored his mother’s wishes for him to be cared for, challenged to develop his many talents, and to be safe in his home and community.

Mary Ann Ulevich and Tom Doherty

Mary Ann Ulevich and Tom Doherty

The Wrentham staff welcomed Tom in December 2011. His transition was smooth, thanks to the sensitive, professional care extended him and to me, his guardian. Tom lived with six other residents in Oak Grove 1 cottage on the grounds of Wrentham, where he had his own room, enjoyed listening to his Beatles, Lennon Sisters and other much loved record albums.

He watched General Hospital, westerns, and the Red Sox on TV. Tom worked Monday through Friday in the dining room, enjoyed group activities including shopping trips to Patriots Place, eating out at local restaurants, and outings to ball games (including two trips to Spring Training), visits to Cape Cod, apple picking and local fairs. The folks at the town bank, drugstore, and coffee shops knew him by name and mourned his death, along with the WDC community of residents and staff. He loved getting mail, especially if pictures of family were enclosed.

Tom delighted in seeing cousins, however distant, and his affection for them was disarming. His memories of his parents and family were filled with happiness. Tommy’s pleasures were simple…the Red Sox, the Beatles, his family picture albums, a good day at work, coffee, a cigar now and then, and his time with friends and staff.

Tom died last month of esophageal cancer. His care at WDC was outstanding. His diagnosis was made at Dana Farber, and treatment was coordinated with the talented medical staff at WDC. More than once, medical staff at Dana Farber commented on how well Tom was physically cared for at WDC and how professional the WDC medical team was in working with them.

I and WDC caregivers accompanied Tom to his medical appointments, and I too can attest to the professional and compassionate care that flowed naturally from this outstanding WDC staff. Tom’s WDC social worker provided consistent support for all of us – Tom, the WDC staff, the hospice team, and family. Tom’s wish to remain in his home, with his friends and staff, was gracefully accommodated with a beautiful team effort. His final weeks saw him celebrated with music, a trip to Fenway Park, and a party in his honor attended by scores of friends. In his last days, he was visited by employees of every department at WDC, by retired employees, and members of the community.

Tom’s funeral, held at WDC with a funeral Mass celebrated by the local church pastor, was a testament to the caregivers/staff at WDC. Together with family, the staff and residents planned and participated in every detail, down to the last song, Let it Be. Yes, Tom was loved by his family, but he was cherished by those who lived and worked at Wrentham. His funeral was attended by more than 120 mourners, prompting my brother to ask me, “Who are these people?”  The vast majority were the loving, compassionate folks who work at WDC.

I could go on. But I just want you to know how proud you can be of the work carried out at WDC. I know that the philosophy of care for those with intellectual disability is to provide support to remain in their community with their families, with guidance and services.  I fully support this contemporary approach, but acknowledge that there are many who because of their history and challenges, and/or because of the progression of their needs combined with diminished family and community resources, can and do thrive in facility-based care.

Our experience affirms the quality of life that is possible in a facility like WDC. And it was made possible by the community that is WDC – its staff. I could list countless staff providing extraordinary, creative care under the leadership of the director, Judi Lydon-Ruby. Every department, from administration through maintenance and medical teams and social services and contracted services and direct care staff and volunteers, has as their focus the care and safety of the vulnerable people entrusted to them. Their compassion, longevity, and commitment affirm the accumulated wealth of experience that defines the care at WDC.

On behalf of Tom and our family, I thank you and the exemplary staff at Wrentham for ensuring Tom’s rich and rewarding life.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Ann Ulevich

Per-client abuse data demonstrate relative safety of state-run residential facilities

December 9, 2019 1 comment

A new per-client analysis by COFAR of abuse data from the state shows that state-run residential facilities for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had below-average substantiated abuse allegation rates and referrals for criminal investigations among providers in Massachusetts.

COFAR first reported in September on our ranking of residential service providers based on raw data from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC). That data concerned more than 14,000 allegations of abuse of persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

Since then, we received information from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) on the number of clients served in both state-run and corporate provider-run group homes and other facilities.

As a result, we have analyzed the DPPC data on a per-client basis. We’ve also combined total abuse data for those providers operating in more than one region of the state.

The per-client data corrects for larger providers, including the regional system of state-operated group homes. The state-operated residences in total serve more clients than any individual corporate DDS provider.

The data show that the total network of state-operated homes, with 1,118 clients, had more abuse allegations in total than other individual providers between Fiscal 2010 and 2019. But on a per-client basis, the state-operated homes dropped down the list of providers, and were well below average in terms of both substantiated allegations and criminal referrals between Fiscal 2010 and 2019.

Also, the Wrentham and Hogan developmental centers were at or near the bottom of the list of total providers in every measure except for number of clients. In Fiscal 2018, both developmental centers still had well above the average number of clients among providers.

Wrentham and Hogan are the state’s only two remaining developmental centers that meet federal standards for Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) services.

The chart below lists our rankings of the top 10 and bottom 10 providers in terms of numbers of substantiated abuse allegations per client and referrals for criminal investigation per client from Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019.  State-run facilities are highlighted to show their relative placements on the list.

(Complete results of our findings can be found in spreadsheets at this link: DPPC abuse data per client FY 10 to FY 19 sorted.)


Total subst. complaints and DA referrals per client chart

These findings are in line with our reporting that state-run residential centers and group homes tend to employ staff with higher levels of training and lower rates of turnover than do corporate-run facilities.

Despite that safety record, the Baker administration and administrations prior to it, have reduced funding for state-run facilities in the DDS system, and boosted funding for corporate, provider-run residences.

In addition, DDS routinely fails to offer state-operated homes as an option for people waiting for residential care, and instead directs those people only to openings in the privatized residences.  As a result, those facilities are slowly dying by attrition.

Ranking by number of residential clients

In COFAR’s latest analysis, we re-examined data from DPPC concerning 79 residential providers, 75 for which DDS provided data on the number of clients served. The total providers analyzed included the Wrentham and Hogan Centers.

The total number of clients served in all residential facilities for which DDS provided data was 8,218 in Fiscal 2018.  (Fiscal 2018 was the middle year in the range of years of client data provided by DDS, which was from Fiscal 2016 to 2020.)

As noted, DDS state-operated group homes, combined from all regions of the state, had a total of 1,118 clients in Fiscal 2018, according to DDS records. That is nearly three times the size of the next largest provider, Seven Hills, which had 397 clients.

The total number of clients in provider-run group homes in Fiscal 2018 was 6,692, according to the DDS data. (Data were not analyzed for providers that had relatively few clients.)

At 272 residents and 136 residents respectively, the Wrentham and Hogan Centers had well above the average number of 92.9 residents served by individual corporate providers in Fiscal 2018.

Ranking by number of abuse allegations 

As noted, the entire network of state-operated group homes had the highest number of abuse complaints among providers from Fiscal 2010 through 2019, according to DPPC data.

There were a total of 2,045 complaints involving the state-operated group homes, which was nearly three times higher than for the individual provider with the next largest number of complaints, Vinfen.  But that would normally be expected given the state-operated network is so much larger than any single provider.

The total number of complaints among all residential providers was 14,088 in the period reviewed. The average number of complaints per provider was 178.

Ranking by number of substantiated abuse allegations per client 

When ranked by total allegations of abuse per client substantiated after investigations either by DPPC or DDS, the state-operated group home network fell to 48th on the list, with a per-client substantiation rate of 0.07. That was well below the average rate among providers of 0.13 substantiated abuse allegations per client.

The Hogan and Wrentham Centers were ranked 71 and 72, with rates of 0.01 and 0.00 substantiated abuse allegations per client respectively.

The Judge Rotenberg Center rose to No. 1 on the list, with a rate of 0.55 substantiated allegations per client.

The average rate among providers of substantiated abuse per client was 0.13. (See chart above.)

Ranking by number of allegations per client referred to DA’s

When ranked by the number of allegations referred per client to district attorneys for criminal investigation,  the DDS state-operated group home system fell even further, to a ranking of 50 out of the 75 providers.

The state-operated group home referral rate was 0.12 allegations per client, well below the average among all providers of 0.21 referrals per client.

The Hogan Center was ranked 70th at 0.03 referrals per client, while the Wrentham Center was ranked 75th, at 0.00 referrals.  That was the lowest among providers for which per-client data were available.

The Judge Rotenberg Center stayed at the top of the list, with a rate of 1.5 criminal investigation referrals per client.  That was more than double the provider with the second highest ranking — Becket Family of Services.

Continuing need for transparency

As we’ve said before, we think this type of provider-based data should be made easily available and accessible online by DDS and DPPC. We have continued to urge the Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee to approve a bill (H.93), which would require DDS to post online information about provider-based abuse data and performance.

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 ask the committee to vote favorably on the bill.

We also hope that this data will underscore the need for state legislators to recognize the importance of state-run residential care for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The state-run residential facilities provide an essential backstop of care for persons who are subject to abuse or are simply not able to cope in the corporate-run group home system. Families and guardians should be routinely informed about state-run care as an option, and should certainly not be forced to fight DDS in order to get that option.

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