NASHVILLE - A new audit reveals a deputy commissioner at the state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities last year improperly quashed two “substantiated allegations of misconduct” involving the death of two agency clients served by a private contractor.
The finding was among a series of “serious problems” found in the department’s safety practices, service delivery and information system implementation efforts, according to the state Comptroller’s office.
Comptroller Justin Wilson said in a news release the department “serves some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Therefore, the department must do its utmost to ensure the safety of each individual served and to enhance the quality of life of all Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Among the findings:
• The former deputy commissioner of the Office of Policy and Innovation “improperly assumed authority to overturn two substantiated allegations of misconduct” against provider employees and “therefore did not intend to hold the provider accountable for service recipient deaths.”
• The department didn’t establish “appropriate safeguards” for background checks of agency employees, volunteers or provider employees. That resulted in employees beginning work before background checks were completed, volunteers who had no background checks performed, and provider employees with disqualifying drug convictions that went undetected, officials said.
• Officials did not provide “adequate services” for people with developmental disabilities in violation of statutory requirements and its own mission statement.
• Until top state officials find a “sufficient funding solution,” the high number of people with intellectual disabilities on a waiting list for Medicaid services “will continue to plague the department.”
• Despite spending at least $4.3 million over the past 19 years to replace an outdated information system, the department has “little to show” for the money and agency officials estimate it will take another $11.8 million to complete the project.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...