ANNAPOLIS – Residential Care Network of Pikesville is appealing a decision to revoke its license after the state health department found numerous violations of care standards.
The provider, which runs six homes in Baltimore County for 19 troubled teen-agers, has appealed a decision by an administrative judge and now awaits a decision on its license from the state health secretary.
The 50-page appeal filed March 25, comes after a routine investigation by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 1997. The probe turned up a series of problems in the homes.
In her 71-page opinion, Administrative Law Judge Laurie Bennett agreed with the department’s findings that the Residential Care Network failed to comply with standards of care in a number of areas. She issued her opinion after 19 days of hearings.
The areas include altering records; failure to report runaways to the department; inadequate dental care for a client; and restricting access to coats, shoes, the telephone, and the refrigerator. Also, clients were not allowed to participate in menu selection and individual tastes were not accommodated at mealtime.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has removed all of its clients from the company’s homes, said Tori Leonard, a spokeswoman for the department. Juvenile justice courts, local departments of social services, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Developmental Disabilities Administration originally placed the teens with Residential Care Network.
The rest of the clients remained at the homes, with two exceptions, said George Nilson, the attorney for the Residential Care Network. One client returned to his stepfather and the other was old enough to leave.
Nilson said the care provider disputes the findings.
“(The judge’s) opinions were confusing and contradictory,” Nilson said. “We took vigorous issue with the opinion and were disappointed by it.”
Part of the problem with the opinion, Nilson said, was it came six months after the hearings ended. The judge was required to submit her opinion within 90 days after the hearing, however the judge said she needed more time, Nilson said.
Another hearing will be held on the appeal, after which the secretary will make a decision. If that decision is not in the company’s favor, then it has 30 days to mount another appeal to the health department’s Board of Review.
“It’s really important to emphasize this is not a situation where conditions that threaten the life or situation of these kids exists,” Nilson said.
And there were reasonable explanations for the problems cited by the department and the judge, Nilson said.
One employee did apparently alter documents to cover up a client running away, but the employee left the company soon after the incident, Nilson said. Runaways are always reported to the police and the agency that placed the children in the homes.
“The complaint wasn’t that we didn’t report the problem, but that we hadn’t reported it in triplicate,” Nilson said.
At times shoes and coats were taken away by counselors to prevent teens from running away, he said. The items were always returned within 24 hours. Two teen-agers were caught making harassing calls and so their privileges were taken away and two youth were restricted from the refrigerator because they had eating disorders, he said. “This just never seemed like something to revoke a license over,” Nilson said.