Archive for March, 2023

DDS says Waltham group home provider must check all homes for insect infestations and plan for possible relocations of residents

March 14, 2023 2 comments

As a Waltham group home reopened last week after a month-long shutdown due to a cockroach infestation, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) ordered WCI, Inc., the corporate provider that manages the residence, to assess all of its group homes for “any hazards.”

In a Resolution Letter, dated March 6, DDS Area Director Joan Thompson also stated that the cockroach problem, which resulted in the February 8 shutdown of the Waltham residence, had actually been a “preexisting issue” there.

Thompson said the residence had been “treated a number of times in recent months.” However, it was only in the latest shutdown, which occurred on February 8, that the residents were relocated.

According to the Resolution Letter, the residents had not been relocated during the previous infestation treatments, which presumably involved the application of pesticides in the home. The letter directed WCI to develop “protocols to relocate residents” if “chemical treatments of any kind are needed.”

In the latest instance, the five group home residents were evalucated to a Marriott Hotel in Woburn where they stayed until their return to the Waltham group home last Tuesday (March 7).

Christine Davidson, whose son John is one of the group home residents, said today that she had not been informed of the previous insect exterminations at the home. She said, in fact, that she happened to walk into the home one afternoon a few months ago, unaware that a pesticide treatment had just been done in the residence.

The home was empty at the time, she said, because the four of the residents were at day or work programs and her son had been taken out for lunch.

DDS claims it wasn’t notified of the insect problem

The Resolution Letter also stated that families, guardians, and DDS had not previously been notified of of the ongoing insect problem in the home. However, Christine said that both she and her son had repeatedly complained to WCI over the past year about the roaches and about other unhygienic conditions in the residence.

“John had complained about bugs being in his (breathing machine) mask. Nobody listened to him,” Christine said. She sent us a photo last month of at least two roaches in John’s breathing machine. She had taken the photo while her son was home with her for a visit on the first weekend after the evacuation of his group home.

Christine previously sent us photos of potentially unhygienic conditions in the home in February 2022.

The March 6 Resolution Letter stated that the latest infestation was brought to the attention of WCI when a DDS staff person in the home observed the insects. “Of additional concern is that at the time of the DDS visit, one staff person stated that they were going upstairs to eat to be away from the roaches,” the Resolution Letter added.

DDS does not address allegedly unhygienic conditions

The DDS Resolution Letter was the apparent conclusion of an investigation done by the Department in response to a complaint filed by Christine following the February 8 shutdown of the group home.

In her complaint, Christine stated that the home staff were “not providing proper living conditions,” and that the home was “infested with rodents and roaches,” according to a February 17 DDS letter stating that the complaint would be investigated.

The March 6 DDS Resolution letter, however, did not specifically address Christine’s allegations of unhygienic conditions in the residence, or order the home to be kept in a cleaner state. The letter stated only that WCI must provide “a detailed plan of scheduled visits …to all homes by maintenance and qualified management staff to assess living environments for any hazards.”

Christine said she didn’t think that latter statement was necessarily a requirement that WCI keep the home cleaner. She said, in fact, that a WCI executive told her that the provider will start sending a cleaning crew to the home twice a month. But she said this was at her suggestion and was not the result of a directive from DDS.

Christine said, however, that WCI did not respond to her request that her son be provided with a new bed and bedding following the latest infestation. She said she toured the home on March 7, the day it reopend, and that “everything still looked grimy. I had expected to see the home enhanced. They got rid of the bugs, but the place still looks dirty. Everything is still topsy turvy.”

She said WCI did send an pest control inspector to her own house to make sure the infestation did not spread to it after her son came home from the hotel on weekends to visit her. She said the inspector determined that her home does not have roaches.

We’re glad to hear the bugs are gone from the Waltham residence, at least for the time being. But we are also concerned about the lack of communication from DDS on this matter. As I’ve mentioned before, DDS Commissioner never responded to an email query I sent her about the group home shutdown in mid-February.

In her March 6 Resolution Letter, Thompson appeared to blame at least some of the lack of communication on WCI.

But Christine said she still has not received answers from DDS itself to her ongoing concerns about the house. She said that despite an initial promise from the Deparment to “work collaboratively” with her in the wake of the latest infestation, DDS officials from Thompson’s office have not returned her phone calls.

UPDATE: Mother’s house may now be infested with insects from group home ordered shut down last month

March 6, 2023 7 comments

As Christine Davidson and her son John wait for word as to when John’s Waltham group home will reopen after an infestation of cockroaches and possibly rodents almost a month ago, Christine said her own house may now be infested with the insects.

The group home, which is run by WCI, Inc., a corporate provider to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), was ordered temporarily shut down by the state on February 8 due to the infestation.  Since then, John and four other residents of the group home have been staying in a Mariott Hotel in Woburn.

Christine said that while she still hasn’t been told when the group home will reopen, an executive with WCI invited her to meet him at the residence on Tuesday morning (March 7) to inspect it. She said she was told DDS is scheduled to inspect the home today (March 6).

Christine said that when John first came home for a weekend visit with her last month after having been evacuated from the group home, she saw cockroaches crawl out of his wheelchair. She also found the insects in his CPAP breathing machine, which the group home staff had sent to Christine’s home that weekend. Last week, she said, a roach crawled out from underneath the refrigerator in her kitchen.

“It’s disgusting,” said Christine, who said she has done everything she can to keep her home clean. “This whole thing has been an unending nightmare.”

A letter sent by DDS to Christine on February 17 states that a complaint about the group home infestation was reported to DDS that day, more than a week after the incident. The DDS letter stated that, “the home is infested with rodents and roaches,” and added that DDS would investigate the complaint.

Christine said she doesn’t want her son going back to the residence until WCI provides him with a new mattress in his room, new bedding, and new curtains for his window. But she said the WCI excecutive has so far declined that request. “He (the executive) said if they were to do that for John, they would have to do it for everyone,” Christine said. “I said ‘of course, you should do it for everyone.'”

In an email sent on February 15 to Christine, Jessica Belcher, assistant DDS area director, termed the insect infestation “completely unacceptable,” and said the Department was “holding (WCI) accountable to fix the problem and create a plan so that something like this does not happen again.”

Belcher, whose email didn’t mention the possibility of a rodent infestation as well, also said that DDS would work “collaboratively” with both Christine and her nephew George Papastrat, who are John’s co-guardians, “so that the disruption causes the least amount of stress possible for John.”

Christine said this past weekend, however, that she has lately had trouble reaching Belcher. “I called three times this past week and haven received a call back,” she said.

Christine said that shortly after the group home was shut down, Belcher was responsive to her, and even suggested that John might be able to move to another WCI group home in Waltham. Christine said she was willing to entertain that idea, but was told more recently by WCI that the second residence couldn’t accommodate John, who needs a wheelchair, because the only available bedroom in it is on the second floor.

Christine said she asked Belcher whether a state-operated group home is available in the area for John, but said she has not received an answer to that question.

Christine said she was glad to hear that DDS intends to hold WCI accountable in the matter, but doesn’t understand why nothing was done about her complaints over the past year about unhygienic conditions in the group home. In February 2022, Christine sent us photos of potentially unsanitary conditions inside the group home.

Christine also said the WCI executive told her the provider is offering to exterminate the cockroaches in her own home, but that he did not say when or how that would be done.

Despite the fact that John has now been living in the hotel for close to a month, Christine said she was told by the group home manager that she is not allowed to visit him there. She said the manager did not give her a reason for the prohibition on visits. Such a prohibition would appear to be in violation of DDS regulations stating that family members must be permitted to visit departmental clients at all times.

Christine said a new breathing machine has been delivered to John’s hotel room. But she said John told her he doesn’t want to use it because he is afraid there may be insects in it.

On February 14, I emailed DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder and other top DDS officials to ask for a comment on the incident and whether they considered it to be an isolated case. To date, I have not received a response to that query.

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