Governor Hassan Directs Department of Health and Human Services to Take Additional Action in Response to Lakeview Reports
Department of Education Orders Cessation of Lakeview’s Special Education Program
CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan has directed the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to begin immediately implementing the recommendations of an independent investigation of its licensing procedures and oversight of the Lakeview Neurorehabilitation Center, including restructuring of the DHHS licensing unit – including staffing and rules – improving coordination between DHHS divisions and Area Agencies, maintaining a freeze on New Hampshire admissions to Lakeview, and continuing an ongoing intensive monitoring program that DHHS started in response to the complaint issued in September 2014.
Governor Hassan ordered the independent review after a Disabilities Rights Center report raised serious concerns about Lakeview, as well as about the state’s regulatory oversight. The investigator’s reports were released today.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that we are doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens. These reports make clear that we can and must do better,” Governor Hassan said. “That is why I have directed the department to immediately begin implementing the investigator’s recommendations, including restructuring the licensing unit to ensure greater oversight, improving its processes for sharing information between divisions and with the Area Agencies, and maintaining the freeze and intensive monitoring program.’
The State will direct Lakeview to create an advisory group that includes residents and family or guardians of patients to ensure input from those who Lakeview serves. The DHHS review team will also reassess the shortcomings in Lakeview’s Plan of Correction consistent with inadequacies outlined in the report, including staffing deficiencies, the structure of the Rapid Response Team, and implementation timelines and deadlines for Lakeview.
“This report makes clear that we must set – and hold – facilities like Lakeview to higher standards,” Governor Hassan said. “At the same time, we need to develop the infrastructure to ensure that Lakeview and similar facilities are only used for short-term care and that plans are in place to transition patients back to community-based care,”
“We must be vigilant in our efforts to address these serious problems, and these actions are just the first step,” Governor Hassan said. “I hope that the recommendations outlined in the review of the Department of Health and Human Services reinforce the need to responsibly fund the services that it provides, and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that we meet our commitments to patients and residents and improve our community-based approach to providing high-quality care to those who experience disabilities and to all Granite Staters in need.”
In addition to maintaining the freeze on new admissions and a regular safety and well-being monitoring program, Governor Hassan has directed DHHS to implement a series of additional corrective actions. In addition to the aforementioned actions at Lakeview and the continued freeze on new admissions, immediate actions include communicating the report’s findings and the department’s actions with other states – whose citizens constitute the majority of the facility’s population – with patients at Lakeview.
Near-term actions include identifying and addressing staffing needs within the department to sufficiently support its licensing division and continued monitoring of the stability of Lakeview’s operations. Over the long-term, DHHS will review existing rules and establish new rules and protocols for licensing unique facilities like Lakeview; streamline communication and information between those responsible for oversight; continue the department’s quality assurance review of its oversight responsibilities; and evaluate the data being collected from the monitoring program.
“The reports of the independent investigator illustrate the challenges inherent in serving the needs of this complex and vulnerable population and the need for the infrastructure and resources to adequately serve individuals in the community,” said DHHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas. “Some of the individuals at Lakeview have suffered traumatic brain injuries and many have acute behavioral needs that require one-to-one or higher staffing. The reports also make clear the need for us to take a critical look at the existing regulatory structure and make changes as may be necessary to assure patient safety. The department remains committed to improving the service this population receives as well as the oversight of the service delivery system.”
In a related action, New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Virginia Barry issued a letter to Lakeview ordering the cessation of the Special Education program at Lakeview, giving New Hampshire districts sending students to Lakeview 60 days to find an alternative placement for their students. The department will work with the local districts to identify and facilitate an alternate placement for the New Hampshire students.
“Despite detailed letters identifying areas of non-compliance and the steps necessary to demonstrate correct implementation of the New Hampshire Rules, the Special Education Program of the Lakeview School has consistently failed to comply,” Commissioner Barry wrote.
“The nature of the noncompliance demonstrates a systemic failure on the part of the program to provide a free appropriate public education to its students,” Commissioner Barry’s letter continued.
The independent investigator’s review of Lakeview’s infrastructure and policies and outside review of the department’s handling of Lakeview complaints – as well as Commissioner Barry’s letter – are attached.