Home > Uncategorized > DDS state-operated group homes facing a staffing and possible closure crisis

DDS state-operated group homes facing a staffing and possible closure crisis

State-operated group homes for persons in Massachusetts with developmental disabilities appear to be facing a perfect storm of staffing shortages, potentially unvaccinated staff, and a possible departmental effort to shut at least some of the residences down.

The staffing shortages are also affecting the much larger network in the state of corporate provider-operated group homes funded by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). But we are increasingly concerned that the critically important state-run DDS group home network could be facing a crisis that could threaten its long-term existence.

We often advise families whose loved ones are experiencing poor care in provider-run residences to ask for placements in available state-run group homes. Staff in the state-run network generally receive higher pay and benefits and more training than their counterparts in the provider system.

Resident moved without notice

This week, we received a report that a state-run group home in western Massachusetts was being closed and that at least one of the residents was moved without written notice as of Thursday (October 21) to a location in another town.

Earlier this month and this week, we received reports from a COFAR member that up to seven state-run homes in the southeastern region of the state had been closed because staff in them had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

We have not been able to confirm those reports about closures of homes in southeastern Massachusetts. A DDS official privately told a COFAR member that no state-operated group homes had yet been closed in the region as of mid-October, but that some closures could happen after October 17. The official referred to the possibility of “temporary consolidations” of group homes around the state.

In August, Governor Baker issued an executive order requiring all state employees to be vaccinated by October 17 or ultimately be terminated. While the executive order apparently applies to staff in state-operated group homes and the Wrentham and Hogan Developmental Centers, the separate provider-operated DDS group home system is apparently not subject to the vaccination mandate.

It is not clear how many staff in the DDS group home system remain unvaccinated. As of last April, the last time EOHHS apparently tracked staff vaccinations, less than 50% of staff in state-operated DDS group homes were fully vaccinated, and only 51% of staff in provider-run group homes were fully vaccinated.

Administration officials not commenting

On October 14, we emailed DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder and the press office at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) with questions about the reports of closures and consolidations in the state-operated group home network.

To date, Ryder has not responded to our query. A spokesperson for EOHHS said we would have to file a Public Records Request for that information.  On October 15, we filed a Public Records Request, and EOHHS responded that same day that that agency did not have any records relevant to our query.

DDS regulations may be violated by sudden closures

Under DDS regulations (115 CMR 6.63), DDS clients cannot be transferred without a 45-day notice and the opportunity for a hearing unless the the Department determines that the transfer is “an emergency involving a serious or immediate threat to the health or safety of the individual or others.”

Western Mass DDS staff urge Ryder to address staffing shortages

Meanwhile, on Wednesday (October 20), the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union that represents nurses in the DDS system as well as hospitals around the state, reported that several DDS employees in western Massachusetts had sent a letter in late September to Commissioner Ryder “imploring her to intervene in a growing patient-care crisis that is unfolding in many of the region’s DDS group homes.”

The letter stated that staffing shortages in both state-operated and provider-operated group homes were causing “significant increases” in client injuries requiring emergency room treatment, and in the placement of untrained staff in homes.

The MNA letter said some staff were being forced to work overtime due to staffing vacancies, and that one staff worker was reportedly required to work 48 hours straight.

The MNA letter to Ryder was dated September 21. The union said that as of October 20, Ryder had not responded.

COVID rates in the DDS group home system continuing to climb slowly

In the midst of the continuing staffing and apparent vaccination problems, the latest online COVID testing report from EOHHS shows a slow, but continuing increase in individuals testing positive in DDS state and provider-run group homes. In state-operated group homes, the number of residents testing positive rose from 3 to 6.

Among staff in the state-operated group homes, the number of those testing positive rose from 11 to 12 between September 7 and October 5.

In provider-run homes, the number of residents testing positive jumped from 31 in September to 49 in early October. The administration, however, does not report the number of staff testing positive in the DDS provider-run system.

Census in state-ops and ICFs declining

Whether or not there are plans to close state-operated group homes or the Wrentham or Hogan Developmental Centers, the administration has nevertheless been letting the residential populations or census drop in these facilities. In addition, funding for these facilities has dropped or has remained flat for years. (See here and here.)

Documents provided by DDS on September 21 in response to a Public Records Request for records on the number of admissions to state-operated group homes, confirm that the census in those facilities has been declining since Fiscal Year 2015. We previously received information from DDS showing a decline in the census and virtually zero admissions in 2019 and 2020 at the Wrentham and Hogan Centers.

The census in DDS provider-operated group homes grew by an average of 124 residents per year between Fiscal Years 2008 and 2021. However, the census in state-operated group homes grew by an average of only 3 residents per year.

Moreover, since Fiscal 2015, the census in state-operated group homes has actually dropped by an average of 18 residents per year while the census in provider-operated group homes has continued to grow by an average of 83 residents per year. The number of residents in state-run group homes was almost 10% lower in Fiscal 2021 than in 2015.

The data show there have been admissions each year to the state-operated homes.  But those admissions have apparently been more than offset by deaths in those residences.

Future is concerning

In sum, all of these numbers and trends are concerning, as is the administration’s policy not to respond to questions either from us or from unions such as the Mass. Nurses Association.

We may learn a little more if DDS does provide records relevant to our Public Records Request concerning the reported state-operated group home closures.  But in the meantime, we are left to wonder what the administration is planning to do – or is actually doing — to address the staffing shortages in the DDS system.

At the very least, we hope the administration doesn’t view the staffing shortages and the problem of unvaccinated staff as opportunities to further downsize the state-operated group home system.

  1. Ed Orzechowski
    October 22, 2021 at 10:34 am

    These are very troubling developments. I hope the Commissioner replies. Communication is crucial.


  2. Valerie Loveland
    October 22, 2021 at 10:37 am


    Is this something I need to plan for as far as matteson is concerned?

    Valerie Loveland Young Living Brand Partner 774-212-3467 Haveyourcake123@outlook.com



  3. JJD
    October 22, 2021 at 10:38 am

    Cap management compensation to a % of state contracts and mandate career paths and a living wage for direct care staff. Anything else is lip-service.


  4. Anonymous
    October 22, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    All providers are having trouble hiring staff just like every other industry across the US. Hiring bonuses and increases in hourly rates still have not attracted people to apply. It is my understanding that these closures are temporary until staffing can be maintained and the houses will reopen.


    • October 22, 2021 at 5:07 pm

      Let’s hope that’s the case; but if it is, why doesn’t the administration just say so?


      • Pissedoffexemployee
        October 23, 2021 at 8:13 pm

        Because it’s another one of their lies! I worked as a DSW for 15 years in CCS. What a difference in the past few years, the … is the biggest problem and has no clue what she’s doing or regard for the individuals and staff. She is a nurse hater for sure which is so sad as they have some of the best there is!
        I resigned due to her and management above ignoring calls for help at a challenging home. Staff mandated for days with no relief in sight. Seems management in panic mode now and abruptly closed a few homes that were adequately staffed and moved individuals of 30+ Years unnecessarily. So tragic and devastating to the individuals, families and staff. There needs to be accountability and no doubt charges are to come.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exemployee
        October 26, 2021 at 10:00 am

        It is very sad how many dedicated staff we have lost due to poor working conditions. Sadly, the individuals suffer the most from this. I am a DSW that left. I couldn’t take it anymore. I found a job with less stress and more pay. No mandated overtime. Union tries to help but it seems nothing can be done to help the situation just constant bandaids. The nurses are great and also try very hard to help and even went to their union but they also have got nowhere. The lack of action and caused a terrible situation that will now be even harder to fix. Staff morale is really in the toilet and nobody knows what they are doing anymore. I don’t understand how … still has her job. Since she took over, CCS has changed dramatically for the worse.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Tina-you know who I am!
      October 27, 2021 at 9:11 pm

      Hiring bonuses?? You can’t be this naive to believe the homes closed temporarily. Who is advocating for these individuals moved from their fully staffed homes unnecessarily.
      Very unethical management team and shame on all of them.
      Crickets! Resign!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 22, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    I agree that this is really disheartening to hear. I hope that information from DDS central office is quickly given to families on the status of this situation. Accurate information is crucial to prevent panic and allow for planning.


  6. Lisa
    October 24, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Southeastern Massachusetts is sadly run. Management don’t care about staff let alone clients. We are being forced sometimes 16-24 hours straight no relief. 7 houses closed with less than a week notice to the detriment of clients. Families were never notified. Clients told in two days and packed up and moved to other houses that were mismatched to their needs. Management tells lies to cover up what is really going on. They work from home doing less than 8 hours. They need to be investigated. Working condition are terrible. People are burnt out, management works you to the bone till your moral is so low and quality of work suffer and so do the clients. Please investigate Southeastern DDS cause they are covering up their lies. They take advantage of staff who are burnt out and overworked.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Me
    November 23, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Southeastern mass DDS most definitely closed 7 homes. I work there. I know what’s going on. Don’t know why management won’t tell the truth, it was a consolidation to save money.

    Liked by 2 people

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