District Suspends Referrals to Nonprofit's Group Homes

By Henri E. Cauvin and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 8, 2009

The District is halting new referrals to all group homes operated by a nonprofit organization that the city took to court this week over health and safety concerns at two of its homes for the mentally disabled.

The nonprofit organization, Individual Development Inc., operates 11 facilities in the District. The city's latest move is a sign that its concerns go beyond the two homes that the city has petitioned to be taken over by a court-appointed receiver.

Laura L. Nuss, head of the city's Developmental Disabilities Administration, delivered the news in a letter sent Tuesday to IDI's president and chairman, David W. Wilmot.

"DDA takes this action as a result of on-going concerns related to the systemic problems experienced by IDI in delivering adequate health care services and ensuring persons are protected from harm," Nuss wrote.

Wilmot is an influential figure in D.C. politics, as are two other members of the IDI board, Frederick D. Cooke Jr. and A. Scott Bolden.

"We received the letter. We're reviewing it, and we will respond accordingly to the city's concerns," said Bolden, who is serving as the nonprofit group's counsel.

Bolden has said that IDI provided nothing less than high-quality care to its clients and that it was not responsible for any abuse or neglect.

Advocates for the mentally disabled, health inspectors for the District and the federal court monitor in a class-action lawsuit have been raising questions for years about the quality of care at IDI facilities.

After one woman recently lost 26 pounds in a month, the advocacy group University Legal Services expressed concern, and the court monitor urged the District to seek a receiver for IDI's group homes on 53rd Street SE and Edson Place NE.

The District did that in a filing Monday in D.C. Superior Court, and in an accompanying report, the court monitor, Elizabeth Jones, catalogued a pattern of problems at the two homes, which are licensed to care for up to 16 residents.

In the report, which was filed under seal but summarized in the government's complaint, the monitor cites three deaths at the 53rd Street and Edson Place homes as among her concerns.

Independent investigations of two of the deaths by a consultant found significant deficiencies in the health care provided to two women at the IDI homes. The investigation of the third death is underway.

One case involved a 57-year-old woman who died in November of a urine-related infection and pneumonia, according to the investigation report, which was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Investigators wrote that although "it would difficult to determine whether this death was preventable, problems were identified related to the decedent's health care management. Overall, health care did not appear to be comprehensive and coordinated, especially in regard to the decedent's history of recurrent urinary tract infections and psychotropic medication usage."

The other case involved a 57-year-old woman who had a misplaced feeding tube and died in January 2007, apparently of an infection, according to a report. The death was not preventable, the report says, but "it appeared that the misplaced feeding tube may have been a factor in the development of this scenario and her subsequent demise."

Bolden said Wednesday night that the deaths in questions were natural and that the D.C. government cannot now try to "rewrite history."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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