Home > Uncategorized > DDS reportedly continuing to block shared living services to client who complained of abuse by provider agency employees

DDS reportedly continuing to block shared living services to client who complained of abuse by provider agency employees

Almost a year ago, Mercy Mezzanotti, a client of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), lost her shared living services after claiming she had been emotionally abused by two employees of Venture Community Services, a DDS-funded provider agency.

Today, Mercy says, DDS is continuing to block her attempts to get her shared living services back.

On Monday (April 10), COFAR emailed DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder, contending that Mercy has been illegally denied shared living services by the DDS Worcester area office since May 2022, and urging Ryder to intervene in the matter.

Mercy is currently living in the Sutton home of Karen Faiola, who is voluntarily providing shared living services to her. Karen had been Mercy’s paid shared living caregiver for four years until Venture terminated its contract with Karen on May 23 without providing a stated reason for the termination. DDS pays corporate providers such as Venture to contract directly with shared living caregivers.

Prior to that May date, both Mercy and Karen had complained that a job coach working for Venture and a second employee had emotionally abused Mercy. As a result of the contract termination, Karen hasn’t been paid since May for continuing to care for Mercy.

Moreover, on the same day that Venture terminated its contract with Karen, a Venture employee removed Mercy against her will from Karen’s home and placed Mercy with another caregiver whom Mercy had never met. When Karen, at Mercy’s insistence, brought Mercy back to her home two days later, DDS moved to disenroll Mercy from its federally reimbursed Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program. DDS argued that in leaving the stranger’s home, Mercy was refusing DDS services.

Door was left open to reapply

In February, a DDS-appointed hearing officer sided with the Department and upheld Mercy’s disenrollment, but left the door open for Mercy to “work with” the DDS area office to reapply for shared living services. That month, Mercy complied with the hearing officer’s decision by asking for a referral to a new provider payment agency, the Kennedy Donovan Center. Mercy’s hope was that Kennedy Donovan would then agree to her longstanding request that Karen remain as her caregiver.

The DDS area office first appeared to agree to Mercy’s request for a referral to the Kennedy Donovan Center. But then the area office failed without explanation to send the referral. Mercy and Karen said Kennedy Donovan informed them it could not process Mercy’s application for services without a referral from the DDS office.

Mercy’s service coordinator supervisor in the area office then texted Mercy last month to say she would have to undergo an eligibility “reprioritization” before she could be “considered for residential services.” The supervisor declined both to answer Mercy’s question why she was not sending the referral as she had earlier promised to do, and to explain the purpose of the reprioritization.

In our email to Commissioner Ryder on Monday, we stated that “Mercy has been treated with callous cruelty by the DDS Worcester area office, which has acted time and again, without explanation, to thwart her wishes regarding her living arrangements, care and services.”

We noted that the area office first refused to properly investigate Mercy’s allegations that she had previously been emotionally abused by Venture employees and was subsequently emotionally injured by her involuntary removal from Karen’s home.

“Bad-faith argument”

We stated to the commissioner that the area office then argued that because Karen no longer had a contract to provide shared living services to Mercy, Karen was no longer a qualified shared living caregiver.

As a result, according to the area office, Mercy was “refusing DDS services” in continuing to stay with Karen.  This was, in our view, “a bad-faith argument that deliberately ignored Mercy’s express wish and desire to continue to live and receive services from Karen.”

As we stated to Ryder, Mercy has tried to comply with the hearing officer’s decision that she should nevertheless work with the DDS area office to find a new Qualified Shared Living Provider agency. Yet, as noted, the area office has continued to refuse to cooperate with Mercy in this regard.

Services needed now

Mercy needs shared living services. If Karen were to stop caring for her without compensation, we are concerned Mercy could well become homeless. Mercy needs to remain as a “First Priority” client as per DDS regulations (115 CMR 6.07).

We maintained to Ryder that Mercy is entitled under the DDS regulations to receive shared living services, and, in our view, has been improperly and illegally denied those services since May 2022. In addition, the DDS area office has acted repeatedly to thwart Mercy’s clearly stated wish and preference to have Karen remain as her shared living caregiver.

As the hearing officer in Mercy’s appeal of her disenrollment stated, Mercy “is eligible for and receives supports from DDS on the basis of her intellectual disability.” (In actuality, Mercy has not received such supports since May 2022.)

We hope that Commissioner Ryder will take action in this matter and right the longstanding wrongs that are being done to both Mercy and Karen.

  1. Karen Faiola
    April 12, 2023 at 2:42 pm

    Mercy is being punished and ignored. Mercy, because she chose to stay living with me where she’s been living for over 4 years. For not going along with what Venture and DDS wanted for her which was to go to this home of a stranger who could hardly speak English, against her will (Mercy is her own guardian). I’m being punished for helping Mercy get back home, which is what she wanted. Mercy told DDS to get her back home, that she didn’t want to be in this new house. They didn’t do anything. I had to help her, to do the right thing by Mercy, she was suffering. No shared living person should ever be put in this situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M.J.
    April 13, 2023 at 7:34 am

    1. Appears there could be a conflict as having a DDS hearing officer deciding if DDS is correct or the disabled individual. Is this actually a fair hearing?
    2. Forcibly— allowing a vendor staff remove Mercy from her home with no formal notice or investigation? Who authorized that abusive act? Where is the DDS investigation of that and the alleged abuse by venture employees?
    3. DDS threats seems is happening way to often, threats that you will lose services, I have been hearing this from others. Is this becoming the normal practice of DDS if someone questions or doesn’t agree with DDS threaten them with losing services?
    4. Stop the threats of losing services or telling Mercy to undergo an eligibility “reprioritization” before she could be “considered for residential services.” This appears like deliberate retaliation by the DDS Worcester Office staff.
    5. DDS can fix this easily make the referral to the Kennedy Donavan Center. Appears self directed only means if it fits what the DDS Worcester Area Office wants not the individual?
    6. If the Worcester DDS office worked for the best interest of the individual then our DDS Commissioner would not have to deal with this as she had enough to do. DDS Worcester staff vs one disabled individual I can only hope Commissioner Ryder gets to the truth and helps Mercy get to reside where she feels safe and cared for. I also hope she sends out some type of notice to her employees that will stop the growing practice of threatening people who question DDS or their vendors.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Karen Faiola
    April 13, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    DDS has forgotten who they work for. All these actions are purely malicious. They are clearly abusing their power. We contacted Joseph Weru, the director of DDS Human Rights because Mercy’s rights have been violated. All he did was ask me who we were dealing with over at DDS Worcester and I told him and I never heard back from him and nothing changed.

    It is hard for me to believe the commissioner, Ryder, doesn’t know anything about our plight. I’ve contacted our senator, our then governor Baker, the then attorney general Maura Healy, the DDS regional director, Anthony Keane, (DLC) Disability Law Center, (DPPC) Disabled Persons Protection Commission and no one did anything. We even reached out to Ryder the commissioner when all this started.

    There is no protection out there for special needs people who have been wronged by the very system that’s supposed to protect them.

    The laws are there to protect Mercy but they weren’t followed by Venture and DDS and not enforced by anyone we contacted.

    I sent a request for a referral on behalf of Mercy back last June to Open Sky and DDS refused to send it. If they sent it, I could have become requalified as a shared living provider through the new agency.

    Then the hearing officer after the hearing decided DDS had the right to defund Mercy because she wasn’t living with an approved shared living provider.

    DDS put us in a precarious situation by defunding Mercy. Since covid my self-employment declined. The income from shared living was our only income. This is the case for many shared living providers. Income instantly cut to nothing. DDS who is supposed to care about special needs people were so cold and weren’t concerned about us having heat, electricity, food or money to keep roof over out head. This is cruelty at the highest level.

    DDS and Venture are above the law no doubt.

    Perhaps there needs to be a bill of rights for shared living providers


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