Health and Family Services Cabinet
Cabinet, Department of Justice Reach Settlement Agreement on Oakwood
Following extensive discussions, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have agreed to settle long-standing civil rights complaints surrounding the operation of the Communities at Oakwood, the state’s largest facility for adults with mental retardation.
The civil rights complaints by the DOJ stem from a 2001 investigation of the facility, which is located in Somerset. The investigation reported many problems going back a number of years, including failure to protect residents from harm, inadequate care and inadequate services to residents.
The agreement was filed today with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
“This agreement represents a significant commitment by the commonwealth to ensure that Oakwood clients live in a safe environment that meets their health needs, allows them to grow and respects their freedoms,” said Wes Butler, general counsel for CHFS. “In reaching this agreement, the DOJ has understood the unique circumstances facing Oakwood. The DOJ has worked with the cabinet on a plan to achieve the common goal of providing Oakwood’s clients the safe and appropriate care each client deserves.”
In September 2004, CHFS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DOJ concerning the operations of Oakwood. The Memorandum of Understanding incorporated a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) that provides a clinical and administrative blueprint in providing care to Oakwood clients in a manner that meets their individual needs and respects their rights. DOJ continues to monitor Oakwood’s progress on the plan. The SAP is also a cornerstone of the Settlement Agreement.
The terms of the Settlement Agreement and the 2004 MOU are similar. The difference, however, is that the Settlement Agreement provides a heightened level of accountability to ensure that the terms are met. A federal court will have the authority to supervise the Settlement Agreement and an independent monitor will report to the court, as well as to the Cabinet and DOJ.
“There is a substantial level of accountability in this agreement. Ultimately, the clients at Oakwood are the real winners from this agreement,” Butler said.