The District government has agreed to a number of improvements and new procedures at Forest Haven, the city's problem-plagued facility for the mentally retarded, including a pledge to contract out work at the center if problfems in hiring staff employes continue.
The city also has agreed to draw up individual therapy plans for each patient at the facility in Laurel, Md., to stock the center with a two-month supply of food, medicine and clothing, and to seek from the City Council a permanent exemption for Forest Haven from the requirement that city workers live in the District.
The concessions were made in a consent agreement hammered out Friday by attorneys for the city and the Justice Department, and stem from a lawsuit won several years ago by the parents of Joy Evans, a young retarded girl who died at Forest Haven. It was signed by John Suda, an attorney with the District Corporation Counsel's office.
In January of this year, Justice Department attorneys asked U. S. District Court John H. Pratt to compel the city to provide decent living conditions, training and homes in the community for the 400 patients at the facility. Since last fall, Forest Haven has been operating without federal Medicaid certification because of a variety of deficiencies found by federal inspectors.
The city has been struggling to bring the center up to federal standards. Meanwhile, however, the city also has remained under federal court order in the Evans case to upgrade the facility and at the same time to begin placing its patients into private homes. It is this earlier court order that gave rise to the agreement reached in the meeting on Friday.
Under the agreement, if the city is unable to fill a vacancy within 60 days, the city will attempt to contract out the affected services, again exerting "maximum efforts" until the services are provided.
The city will impose no new hiring restrictions at Forest Haven, will maintain a personnel office at the facility to make hiring easier, and will upgrade training procedures for all staff at the center.
In addition, the city "shall seek legislation permanently exempting" Forest Haven from the residency requirement for city employes. The facility now enjoys a temporary exemption.
The city also will develop an individual therapy plan for each Forest Haven resident and revise the plans annually. Priority will be given to developing plans for patients who have acute medical or psychological needs.
Within 30 days, the city must stockpile a two-week reserve of supplies at Forest Haven, according to the agreement, and by Oct. 1 there must be a two-month supply on hand. The superintendent of the institution will have the authority to make emergency purchases of up to $2,000.