FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2004) - Operations at Oakwood have been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) through a ground-breaking agreement with Kentucky, Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DOJ concerning the operation of the Communities at Oakwood, a state facility in Somerset for people with mental retardation.
"This agreement illustrates the commitment the Fletcher-Pence Administration has made to Oakwood and the people and families it serves,” said Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “Oakwood will serve as a model that shows how quality services are delivered effectively.”
The Memorandum of Understanding sets out details of the state’s plan to continue making improvements at Oakwood and will not require any court intervention or supervision. The agreement with the Department of Justice is the first of its kind for a facility like Oakwood.
The agreement stems from a 2001 DOJ investigation of conditions at Oakwood. The department found several problems, including failure to protect residents from harm, inadequate care and inadequate services to residents.
A consulting firm was brought in for improvements and management. In 2004, the state assumed management control and launched a “strategic action plan” to make more changes and improvements.
The state hired Dr. Mohamed El-Sabaawi, a nationally-recognized expert, to spearhead the improvements this year at Oakwood, which currently serves about 300 people. El-Sabaawi has been a consultant for the federal government in a similar situation in Arkansas.
Features of the strategic action plan include treatment planning with more attention being given to the specific needs of residents, complete assessments of residents, and improved monitoring of the treatment plans. The plan also calls for Oakwood to provide an array of services to residents, including psychiatric, neurological, medical, nursing and therapy. The plan sets out rules to limit the use of restraints and also agrees to provide information to families about community-based services outside of Oakwood.
The memorandum of agreement says that the Department of Justice believes the strategic action plan “will substantially and adequately address the issues raised by the DOJ investigation.” The state also agreed to provide training to the Oakwood staff about the plan.
The Justice Department and state agreed to appoint Nirbhay N. Singh, Ph.D., as a monitor of the agreement and plan. He will conduct regular reviews and inspections to determine compliance.
“The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has worked very hard to make Oakwood a national model,” Governor Fletcher said. “I’m very pleased with this agreement, which guarantees Oakwood will provide quality services to our citizens.”
The agreement will last for four years unless the Department of Justice and state officials agree compliance has been met and decide to end the agreement early.