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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2007

Ohio agency bars accreditation of Hancock MRDD

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Saying the board that runs Blanchard Valley Center failed to meet state standards intended to protect the health and safety of its clients, the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities yesterday denied accreditation for the Hancock County MRDD board.

Representatives of the Ohio Department of MRDD met with Blanchard Valley officials in Findlay, where they discussed what the agency needs to do to correct the problems and avoid state receivership.

"What we've proposed is that they contract with an entity that can get them in compliance with their behavior support program - either a private company that specializes in behavior supports or another county board that is accredited and has this expertise," said Robert Jennings, spokesman for the Ohio Department of MRDD.

He said the board has 30 days to respond to the state's decision and, if it can show it has contracted with another agency to help Blanchard Valley correct the problems or is negotiating such a contract, the state would work with the board.

The goal, he said, is to get Blanchard Valley in compliance and back to being an accredited county agency.

The program, which provides educational, vocational, and residential services to mentally retarded individuals, still faces possible state receivership if it does not work toward compliance or if it were to appeal the state's decision and lose.

Bill Heidlebaugh, president of the Hancock County MRDD board, declined to comment after the meeting but referred to a news release in which he stated that the board was disappointed with the state's decision but intended to "remedy our area of deficiency and obtain accreditation soon. We are determined to move the program forward and earn the confidence of the department, the families and clients we serve, and our community."

He said the board planned to meet June 21 to develop a formal response to the state's letter.

After an accreditation review conducted last November and an appeal of the findings, the county board was notified in March that it had 90 days to develop a plan of correction.

A letter dated yesterday and addressed to Mr. Heidlebaugh from Michael Rench, deputy director of community services for the state MRDD department, said a follow-up review conducted May 30 showed it had not properly implemented that plan of correction.

The board, it was determined in the November review, "failed to demonstrate it has developed, implemented, and documented an appropriate behavior support system that meets the needs and provides adequate health and safety protections of the individuals served by the board," Mr. Rench wrote.

Specifically, Blanchard Valley needed to make changes to a time-out room that did not meet state standards, provide staff training on behavior plans, get consent from clients for treatment services, and use positive behavior supports before resorting to more negative methods, among citations.

The critical review was believed to be part of the reason former Superintendent Bryan K. Miller announced his resignation late last month.

As part of a separation agreement, Mr. Miller and members of the county MRDD board agreed not to discuss the reasons for his departure other than to say it was a mutual decision that was "in the best interest of all parties and the Blanchard Valley Center."

Last week Denise Zeffiro-Krenisky, superintendent of the Huron County MRDD in Norwalk, was appointed to fill in for two weeks as interim superintendent. The board said it would use that time to seek a more long-term interim superintendent.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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