The Maine Department of Health and Human Services sent a 21-page response late Tuesday to a legislative committee seeking details about a recent federal audit that found the department failed to properly report and monitor incidents involving abuse or deaths of disabled people in the care of community-based providers.

The department’s letter was not immediately made public.

The letter was sent after business hours to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, according to Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, the panel’s House chairwoman.

Hymanson said in an email that the committee would release the letter after members had reviewed it, either late Tuesday or on Wednesday. The department did not respond to requests for copies of the letter.

The committee sent the department a list of detailed questions about the audit in a four-page letter dated Aug. 31 to DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton. Among the questions are why the agency failed to investigate the deaths of 133 disabled adults who were receiving services. The letter was written by Hymanson and Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, the committee’s Senate chairman.

The department gave an initial response to the findings that was included in the audit itself and issued a statement when the audit was released, but has refused to answer follow-up questions from reporters. Several of the committee’s questions sought further clarification on the department’s written response to the auditors.

In its earlier statement, the department said the audit report is accurate for the period it covers, but doesn’t reflect current practices. The audit was based on a review of medical records and incident reports from January 2013 to June 2015 for 2,640 adult Medicaid beneficiaries with developmental disabilities.

The department also said it had changed some of its practices in light of the findings, and was in the process of amending and updating some rules for better reporting.

Read the federal audit report.

The audit, released Aug. 10, was conducted by the Office of Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. It found several critical problems with how Maine DHHS and, in some cases, service providers, carried out their responsibilities under federal law to protect and meet the needs of adults who receive Medicaid benefits for community-based services. The audit found that DHHS failed to:

Properly monitor and hold accountable the community-based providers who care for adults with developmental disabilities.

Investigate the deaths of 133 Mainers in the program. Law enforcement did not open investigations into any of those deaths. The auditors found that nine of the deaths were unexplained, suspicious or untimely, and that there was not enough information about another 32 deaths to determine whether they were unexplained, suspicious or untimely.

Report potential abuse, neglect and exploitation cases to law enforcement.

Provide reports of rights violations to the state contractor paid to investigate such allegations.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

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