Wednesday, April 16, 2014

County revokes FamiliesFirst certification for mental health care

Yolo County’s mental health department has revoked EMQ FamiliesFirst’s certification to provide mental health services to children covered by Medi-Cal at the embattled Davis group home.

In a letter sent to FamiliesFirst on Wednesday, Kim Suderman, the county’s director of alcohol, drug and mental health, said the facility had failed to meet required standards and that a review of the facility conducted in June revealed deficiencies in a number of areas.

The county’s move comes on the heels of the state Department of Social Services’ decision on June 13 to revoke the group home’s license and bar clinical director Audrie Meyer and capitol region executive director Gordon Richardson from ever working in a licensed group home again. An investigation by the department had found as many as half a dozen children from FamiliesFirst were raped and several others assaulted in the space of a month. Three teenagers, including two residents of FamiliesFirst, have since been arrested in connection with those assaults.

The 63-bed FamiliesFirst facility, located at 2100 Fifth St., provides treatment, education and housing to adolescents with serious emotional problems. The county’s Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADMH) oversees the provision of mental health care to FamiliesFirst residents covered by Medi-Cal.

Suderman said her department conducted a review of the facility on June 20 and 24 and found numerous instances where the facility failed to meet required standards of care. Among the issues raised were a requirement that the facility have one full-time equivalent licensed, certified, registered or waivered mental health professional for every eight children.

“It is unclear how the staffing ratios are currently functioning,” Suderman’s report said.

Staffing — and supervision — were at the heart of the state’s complaint as well.

In its 16-page report, the Department of Social Services had cited some 80 instances since January when children left the facility without permission, including at least seven instances where a rape or assault is alleged to have subsequently occurred at a nearby park, hotel or private residence.

According to Suderman’s report, FamiliesFirst is required to have one-to-one staffing for children with six behavioral indicators, and “of the six behavioral indicators in the policy, all of the children identified in the incidents cited in (the state’s complaint) met the criteria for one-to-one, which if implemented, would have resulted in multiple staff being present during each incident.”

Other issues raised in Suderman’s report include initial psychiatric assessments being conducted 25 or more days after children have been placed at the facility; required family therapy being provided only on-site even though none of the residents of the facility are from Yolo County; and an absence of a specific plan for emergency psychiatric hospitalizations or a written agreement with a local mental health agency.

According to the county, FamiliesFirst had no formal arrangement with local hospitals for emergency psychiatric hospitalizations; used the Davis Police Department for all transportation instead of only when it was deemed unsafe for staff to provide transportation; and listed Yolo County’s Suicide Prevention Mobile Crisis Team as a resource even though the team has not existed since 2011.

But Kristine Austin, director of communications for EMQ FamiliesFirst, said the county has reviewed the FamiliesFirst facility every year and never raised any of those concerns before.

“There’s never been an issue,” Austin said Wednesday, adding that the facility has “passed every time.”

EMQ FamiliesFirst is fighting the state’s move to revoke the Davis facility’s license, as well as the state’s actions against Richardson and Meyer, but Austin said Wednesday no decision had been made on how they will respond to ADMH’s decision.

“We’re reviewing the action taken by the county and are responding,” she said.

In the meantime, Austin added, “The children are safe and the community is safe. The program is still licensed and in full operation.”

In fighting the state’s action, EMQ FamiliesFirst argued in papers filed in late June that because the alleged illegal activity at the heart of the state’s case — multiple rapes and assaults by and against children from the group home — did not occur at the facility, the Department of Social Services has no jurisdiction in the cases.

FamiliesFirst also argued that the state didn’t give the facility a chance to comply with any regulatory deficiencies before seeking to revoke their license.

Suderman said in her letter that the county did provide FamiliesFirst with an opportunity to take action.

She said on June 26, her department conducted an exit interview with EMQ FamiliesFirst to outline the problems found at the facility. Richardson, she said, requested additional time to establish a basis for a provisional certification and two days later sent a letter to her department requesting provisional certification for a 36-bed facility “and providing what (was) characterized as supporting documentation related to the functioning of the group home,” Suderman said.

However, she contended, EMQ FamiliesFirst “did not provide evidence, when given an additional opportunity to do so, to support a provisional certification. Therefore, as of (Wednesday, July 3), Yolo County ADMH is removing … certification from the Davis group home facility.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy


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