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Comptroller: ‘Serious Problems’ Found in DIDD Services

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; October 22, 2013:

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) must remedy serious problems in its service recipient safety practices, service delivery system, and information system implementation efforts, according to a report released today by the Comptroller’s office.

The department provides services directly to recipients or indirectly through contracts with community providers in a variety of settings, ranging from institutional care to individual supported living in the community. DIDD was serving 8,096 individuals as of May 31 of this year.

Among other findings, state auditors reported that:

  • DIDD’s former deputy commissioner of the Office of Policy and Innovation improperly assumed authority to overturn two substantiated allegations of misconduct against provider employees and therefore did not intend to hold the provider accountable for service recipient deaths;
  • The department did not establish appropriate safeguards to govern the background checks of DIDD employees, volunteers, or provider employees. That deficiency resulted in employees beginning work before background checks were completed, volunteers who had no background checks performed, and provider employees with disqualifying drug convictions that went undetected;
  • DIDD was not providing adequate services for individuals with developmental disabilities in violation of statutory requirements and its own mission statement;
  • Until top state officials find a sufficient funding solution, the high number of individuals with intellectual disabilities on the waiting list for Medicaid services will continue to plague the department; and
  • Since 1994, DIDD has spent at least $4.3 million to replace its outdated information system with little to show for the expense. DIDD has estimated that it will spend another $11.8 million to complete the project.

“DIDD serves some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Therefore, the department must do its utmost to ensure the safety of each individual served and to enhance the quality of life of all Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Auditors will present their findings at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Education, Health and General Welfare on October 23. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Hearing Room 16 at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville.

To view the DIDD report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/SA/pa13043.pdf

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Press Releases

House Dems Applaud Haslam DCS, DIDD Appointments

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; May 21, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats are applauding the move by Governor Haslam to appoint Interim Commissioner Jim Henry as the permanent Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services.

“Jim Henry is a great public servant who is unquestionably the best choice to move DCS forward,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “His qualifications, knowledge and professionalism will be a stark contrast and welcome respite from the mismanagement and scandal we have seen from so many other Commissioners in this administration.”

Commissioner Henry assumed control of the Department of Children’s Services in February when then Commissioner Kate O’Day resigned. Since then he has taken positive steps towards fixing an agency that was mired in allegations of secrecy and poor handling of cases.

“We would also like to congratulate Debra Payne for being selected to fill Commissioner Henry’s role as Commissioner of DIDDS,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “This is an extremely important agency and I am confident that Deputy Commissioner Payne will be up to the task of leading this department with the same level of professionalism that Commissioner Henry did.”

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Press Releases

Haslam Appoints New Heads to DCS, DIDD

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; May 21, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Debra Payne as the new commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) as Jim Henry becomes the permanent commissioner at the Department of Children’s Services (DCS).

Payne currently serves as deputy commissioner of DIDD and Henry as the interim commissioner of DCS.

“These two departments handle some of the state’s most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said. “I want to thank Debbie for taking on this new role in such a young department. Her experience and hard work will continue to serve the state of Tennessee very well.”

As deputy commissioner of program operations at DIDD, Payne has overseen two development centers, a statewide community-based service delivery system supported by more than 2,000 employees, 475 community providers and three regional offices.

“I want to thank Gov. Haslam for the opportunity to continue to serve Tennesseans with disabilities,” Payne said. “I look forward to working with this department and all of our providers in continuing to offer quality care.”

Payne has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Middle Tennessee State University. She has served in numerous capacities throughout her career and is credited with assembling a nationally recognized Protection from Harm system as the statewide director of Protection from Harm for DIDD.

Payne lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband, Mike, and she has three children, two step-children and one granddaughter.

Henry was the first commissioner of DIDD, which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. He has headed up both DIDD and DCS since February when he became interim commissioner of DCS.

“I am honored to serve in this capacity with Gov. Haslam,” Henry said. “We have taken important steps at DCS, and we will continue to strengthen our processes and policies as well as continue to improve the department as a whole.”

The appointments are effective June 1.