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Concern Grows Over Waste in Programs for Intellectually Disabled

Pennsylvania State lawmakers are looking to find solutions to possible instances of waste and abuse within programs for people with intellectual disabilities. PA Senator Patricia Vance (R- Cumberland County) is leading those efforts.

Vance said the state's Office of Developmental Programs needs a set of better regulations, especially since those services went from being managed by counties, to being managed at the state level.

Donald Clark, with the Department of Human Services in Allegheny County, said any new initiatives should work on striking a balance that he has dubbed "creative tension."

"Are we providing what is needed, but no more than what is needed? And that's a tension we probably need to work with the office of developmental programs, counties, and SEOs and providers, to make sure that the growth in the program is really needed services," said Clark.

A recent hearing included testimony that service providers were getting reimbursed by the state for questionable purchases. That has become a high priority for the Department of Public Welfare.

"We continue to review providers' cost reports to ensure that waste, abuse, and excess are stopped. Much of the waste and excess in the system has resulted from a lack of good fiscal governance, but there is also some fraud as there unfortunately is in any system. In those cases where it is alleged or detected, ODP has and will make appropriate referrals," said Kevin Friel, Deputy Secretary for D-P-W's Office of Developmental Programs.

Senator Mary Jo White, (R- Butler County) is concerned private care providers are being reimbursed for services that she questions are necessary – like single-person homes for the developmentally disabled. "See I have problems with moving an individual into a single-person home and calling it a group home and saying they're integrated into the community, when in fact, a person goes with them, full-time, to their job every day and stands there and I assume, watches them work. I don't really see that as real integration," said White.

Senator Vance is calling for better reporting standards for the DPW.