Federal Inspectors Find Oakwood Safe, Compliant

SOMERSET --Residents at an embattled state facility for mentally retarded adults appear to be safe and well cared for, according to a team of federal inspectors.

But the inspectors gave no guarantee when they spoke to Bluegrass Oakwood officials Thursday that the facility would retain Medicaid funding. The inspectors surveyed the center for four days.

"We were hoping to get more information," said Joseph A. Toy, president of the Bluegrass Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, which runs Oakwood for the state. "It's very frustrating."

An official with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said he views the recent findings as positive.

"They found the facility is a safe place for the residents to be and the facility is in compliance with federal standards for client safety," said Dr. William Hacker, the cabinet's acting undersecretary for health.

The Somerset facility, home to about 230 people with mental retardation and other disabilities, came under fire last year after receiving more than two dozen serious citations from state regulators that dealt with patient neglect and endangerment. In one instance, a resident drowned after he was left alone while taking a bath.

The federal government is considering whether to terminate federal funds because of the past incidents. Medicaid provides about 40 percent of the $75 million annual cost of operating Oakwood.

Kentucky hired Toy's agency a year ago to run Oakwood and improve conditions for residents.

Toy said the federal team said Oakwood managers should do more to improve "active treatment" -- keeping residents busy and engaged in daily activities. He said Bluegrass has been working to improve services in that area and will continue to do so.

Hacker said state officials will consider the findings and determine what the next step should be to try to preserve Medicaid funding.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to comment on the recent inspection's findings.

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