DHHS response to Disability Law Center report
Salt Lake City—
Owning the challenge
The Disability Law Center’s report released June 26, “The License to Mismanage,” is a hard read. It paints a picture of mistreatment of various individuals at the hands of people who were supposed to care for them and keep them safe.
Any time a person is subject to abuse, neglect, or exploitation, we mourn.
We hurt, especially for people who thought they were in a safe place. We recognize the devastation felt by the family of Chien Nguyen. Anyone who abuses vulnerable individuals through a position of trust deserves to be held accountable. And we are pleased that the Attorney General’s Office has brought charges against the owners of Evergreen Place, which was operating without a license.
The DLC report also paints a picture of government partners unable to protect people from abuse. This is a harsh criticism. But we will own the challenge before us. Here’s how:
Until July 1, 2022, licensing oversight for more than 7,700 Utah providers of long-term care facilities, youth residential treatment centers, intermediate care facilities, and others, fell to the licensing arms of 2 state government agencies: The Utah Department of Health and Utah Department of Human Services.
Licensing divisions in each department were underfunded and understaffed. Their licensing roles sometimes overlapped and were sometimes avoided. Over the years, funding from the Legislature allowed the departments to begin more unannounced inspections and more consistent monitoring visits.
Since July 1, 2022, those teams have combined into the Office of Licensing (OL) and the Office of Background Processing under the Division of Licensing and Background Checks within the merged Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
With the merger, the teams and their new leaders took off on a sprint to implement various reforms to create better protections for dependent and vulnerable people by holding providers accountable and by providing more transparency to the public.
There will always be someone who tries to take advantage of others, but we expect that Utahns in any type of care facility will have better protections because of the following efforts, which have been under way for the past year.
Penalties and sanctions
- There are 7,751 providers who are licensed or certified with OL. OL also inspects unlicensed providers to determine if a license is necessary.
- We have completed 1,447 unannounced inspections and 2,998 announced inspections in the past 6 months.
- Based on these inspections over the past 6 months, OL has issued 30 conditional licenses, 128 civil money penalties, and 10 cease and desist orders to providers who are not licensed but are required to be licensed.
- During the past year, we have developed and implemented a non compliance process for the human services providers where we have increasing levels of severity for multiple offenses.
- Starting July 1, 2023, OL will begin issuing a type of fine called civil money penalties to licensed human service providers who are not complying with licensing rules. The money from those fines can be used by DHHS to train employees and providers, help people find a new place for clients to receive services if the facility serving them shuts down, and improve data systems. This helps increase the quality and continuity of services for the people we serve. These fines have already been collected from child care and health facility licensees.
- Licensed human services providers can now be searched on our website to see their compliance history going back to Jan. 1, 2023. Child care providers compliance history is also available online. We are working to get our health care licensees moved into the same system. This increases our transparency, as previously, people had to submit a records request to view the compliance history of a human services facility.
- We are increasing communication with human services providers. We are seeking input from providers on rule changes, we have question and answer sessions, and have open lines of communications so that providers are successful in complying with licensing rules. We are providing education for providers who apply to be licensed along with ongoing education for licensed providers to understand the tiered penalty system and ensure provider compliance with administrative rules.
- We are evaluating the regulatory framework that governs licensing and are conducting a full-scale review to ensure we have the tools and processes. We continue to evaluate our resources.
If anyone in the public needs to report unsafe conditions at any licensed facility that provides care for people, please visit https://dlbc.utah.gov/ and scroll down to the “Concerns or Incidents” section of the web page.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services is involved in licensing by statute, but the people of DHHS are involved in licensing by choice. We know we have an ability to continue making a difference, as we do every day.
We choose to be here.
We choose to protect.
We choose to serve.
We choose to own the challenge before us.