Home > Uncategorized > DDS data imply the state-operated group home system may have vacancies

DDS data imply the state-operated group home system may have vacancies

While Governor Maura Healey has proposed a welcome 11% increase in funding for the Department of Developmental Service’s state-operated group homes in the coming fiscal year, documents we have received from DDS indicate that those residential services remain underutilized.

In January, we asked DDS for its latest data on the census or number of residents in the state-operated group homes and intermediate care facilities (ICFs) in Massachusetts, and for records indicating the reasons why several state-opereated group homes were closed in 2021.

DDS’s latest data and data previously provided to us imply that there have been, and may still be, vacancies in the state-operated group home system despite the apparently permanent closure of a net of six homes in 2021. That raises a question for us as to why the Department does not appear to offer state-operated group homes as an option to persons seeking residential placements in the DDS system.

As we have reported, DDS does not inform people waiting for residential placements of the existence of the state-operated system. In fact, people often tell us that DDS tells them there are no vacancies when they do inquire about state-operated group homes as potential placements for their loved ones.

Records we received last month in response to our January request also indicate that the closures of the state-operated group homes in 2021 were due to existing and projected staffing shortages that were expected to be temporary.

While the documents do not indicate that the closures were part of a strategy to dismantle the state-operated group home system, the records raise a question why only one of the seven homes that were closed that year has subsequently been reopened.

No continuing data on census

In an initial response on January 18 to our Public Records request, DDS said it no longer had data on the census or total number of residents in the state-operated group home system. The Department said it could provide data only on the total capacity of the group homes. 

It remains unclear why DDS stopped collecting the census data. Data, which DDS provided to us in 2021, showed a steadily dropping census in the state-operated group homes and ICFs in the state for several years previously.

The declines in the census in those settings implied a departmental strategy of letting the critically important state-operated system die by attrition. Successive administrations have instead funded the continued expansion of a much larger system of group homes in Massachusetts that are run by corporate providers that contract with DDS.

Data indicate possible vacancies in state-operated group homes

The January DDS data showed that the total capacity in the state-operated homes dropped from 1,173 residents in Fiscal 2019 to 1,157 in Fiscal 2021 — a 1.4% drop. That would indicate that some homes were closed prior to 2021. The data, as we’ve reported, also showed a continuing drop in the census at the Wrentham and Hogan developmental centers or ICFs.

As noted, DDS previously provided us with data in 2021 on the census in the state-operated group homes. That previous data shows the census dropped from 1,151 in 2019 to 1,097 in 2021 — a 4.7% drop.

Given that the census in the state-operated group homes dropped by a greater percentage than the capacity of the homes from 2019 to 2021, it appears there were vacancies in the remaining state-operated homes between 2019 and 2021.

In fact, the differences between the census numbers and capacity numbers in those years imply that there were 22 vacancies in the state-operated group home system as of 2019, and 60 vacancies as of 2021. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that analysis going forward from 2022 because DDS is no longer keeping records on the census in the group homes.

DDS finally appeared to use its knowledge rather than doing a computer search for the latest documents

In response to our January Public Records Request, DDS had initially conducted computer searches for emails, and was proposing to charge us as much as $22,000 to process them. In two appeals to the state Public Records Division, we suggested DDS should use its knowledge to find the records rather than doing computer searches. It appears DDS finally used that knowledge.

The three documents that DDS provided us last month were letters from two DDS regional directors that concern state-operated group home closures in two DDS regions (Central West and Southeast) during an agreed-upon timeframe of August to November of 2021.

The three letters were from Rick O’Meara, DDS southeast regional director, and Anthony Keane, central west regional director, apparently to families or guardians of group home residents. Two of the letters indicate that the closures were either planned or had occurred due to both insufficient staffing and the expected impact of a new administration policy requiring state employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.  One of the letters, from Keane, referred to an unspecified emergency.

The letters from Keane and O’Meara stated that the closings would be temporary, and that residents would return to reopened homes when the staffing was once again adequate.

DDS should be fully using its state-run group homes

Despite the closures of the state-operated group homes in 2021, the possibility that vacancies exist in the remaining residences is a cause for concern.

Every day, we hear from people who are either not satisified with the care or services their loved ones are receiving in the provider-run residential system, or who can’t get residential services. When they do ask about the availability of state-run group homes or ICFs, they get push-back from the Department.

We hope that the additional funding that Governor Healey has proposed for the state-operated group home system will be used to hire sufficient staff to run the remaining homes in the system at full capacity. DDS should be fully utilizing every available resource to provide adequate care and services to all who want them.

  1. Marsha
    April 5, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Hello David. Thank you so much for keeping this issue in the forefront. I requested placement at a state operated (ICF/IID) facility five months ago right after touring it and knowing that it would be a far more helpful placement for my son compared to his present community based group home/dayhab setting. I am being stalled every step of the way. Nothing has happened. My son remains in the same situation. There seem to be no mandated timelines set for the whole process the way there is at the school (IEP) level. I am at the mercy of their stalling an unreasonable amount of time (probably in hopes that I will give up) and then simply refusing my request (“We feel your son’s needs are already being met in his current placement.”). Also, over twelve years, DDS never informed me of the existence of this alternative type of placement even though I started expressing dissatisfaction with my son’s services about ten years ago. I had to discover it on my own. It should not be this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joan Sheridan
    April 5, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Where are these state run group homes located?


    • April 5, 2023 at 12:17 pm

      Joan, they are located in every region of the state. DDS should be able to tell you where homes in your area are located.


  3. April 5, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Excuse me if this was answered in the vlog, but where does the excess money go if it is not used?


    • April 5, 2023 at 3:25 pm

      Good question. The fact that there are vacancies in the state-operated group homes might not mean the state is saving any money in running the homes. We actually think the state-operated group home line item in the state budget has been underfunded in recent years.


  4. Anonymous
    April 5, 2023 at 9:14 pm

    There are many vacancies in State-ops and sufficient staff to fill these vacancies. The staff that are leaving are related to the new management!! Cofar please advocate the Commissioner and Governor investigate the working conditions in the State ops!

    [Editorial Note: We have removed some claims in this comment that could not be verified about specific individuals.]


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