Federal Officials Ask Judge For More Time With Oakwood Problems

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Federal authorities have asked a judge give Kentucky officials more time to fix problems at the Communities at Oakwood, a home for people with mental disabilities that could lose $43 million in federal funding.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid agreed to join the state in asking an administrative law judge to give Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board more time to correct problems at the Somerset facility. The motion, filed Tuesday, asks the judge to indefinitely delay a Nov. 27 hearing on whether the
state can keep its federal funding.

The state hired Lexington-based Bluegrass to take over management and staffing at Oakwood earlier this fall. Bluegrass, which has had a transition team in the facility for more than a month, is set to take over Nov. 1.

"We see it as an encouraging sign and are cautiously optimistic that the administrative law judge will grant it," Wes Butler, a lawyer for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees Oakwood, told the Herald-Leader.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid told the state last fall that it was going to deny funding for the facility because of problems there. The federal agency agreed to continue funding the agency until the state's appeal could be heard. That hearing was scheduled to begin Nov. 27 in Louisville before an administrative law judge.

Since January 2005, Oakwood has received 24 Type A citations, the most serious type, for failing to protect residents from harm and abuse. In August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid told the state it would end funding immediately unless the Cabinet for
Health and Family Services could show that residents were safe.

It is not clear when the judge will rule on the motion.

Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said they are reviewing the information provided by the cabinet, including its move to new management, but said a decision on the facility's funding could come at any time.

The Somerset facility has about 248 residents and more than 1,000 employees.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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