The state Department of Health has terminated the contracts of four agencies that were part of a team that provided services to a client on a developmental disabilities waiver who the department says was injured while under their care.
“The four providers, At Home Advocacy Inc., A New Vision Case Management, Lynn Barbour, LLC, and Sylvester & Company were responsible in some capacity for the care of an individual that resulted in severe and life-threatening injuries,” DOH spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said Monday.
The four agencies collectively provide services and supports of one type or another to 708 clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. McGinnis Porter said the agencies have until April 30 to complete the transitioning of their DD waiver clients to other approved providers.
Because of laws pertaining to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA, McGinnis Porter said she was unable to provide further details on the incident that led to the termination of the contracts or the extent of the client’s injuries.
One of the providers, Lynn Barbour, said that although her agency was part of the interdisciplinary team working with the client, she knew nothing about the alleged harm to the client and is currently seeking legal advice.
Karen Garcia, the area director for At Home Advocacy, said on the agency’s website that they immediately contacted authorities upon learning of the incident. She declined to comment beyond what was posted on the website.
The voicemail for A New Vision Case Management was full and a message could not be left; Sylvester & Company did not return a message from the Journal seeking a call back.
DOH Secretary Patrick M. Allen issued a statement in connection with the incident, saying “the egregious failure by these agencies to ensure the well-being of our disabled clients warranted immediate action to safeguard residents.”
Those who are charged with protecting the most vulnerable New Mexicans should be “held to the highest standard, and we will hold anyone that abuses that responsibility to full account,” he said.
The DOH website explains that the DD waiver program helps clients participate as active members of their communities and serves as an alternative to institutional care.
At Home Advocacy Inc. of Albuquerque, provided residential in-home care; A New Vision of Corrales provided the case management; Sylvester & Company of Los Ranchos provided physical therapy services; and Lynn Barbour LLC of Albuquerque provided behavioral consultations.
According to DOH, the combined state and federal dollars paid to these providers for the 2022 calendar year was: At Home Advocacy, $17 million; A New Vision, $2.5 million; Sylvester & Company, $736,455; Lynn Barbour LLC, $439,696.
“At Home Advocacy learned of significant injuries to one of the individuals we support after a caregiver chose to take the individual outside of the state,” the agency said on its website. “Once this information came to our knowledge, we quickly notified authorities of what we had learned and worked with them swiftly to take action and to protect the individual.”
The statement, written by Garcia, went on to say that in view of its 15 years of service, At Home Advocacy strongly disagrees with the decision to terminate its contract and plans to appeal.
“We are actively participating in the investigation with law enforcement officials in the hopes that they will catch the perpetrator, wherever they are located, and ultimately bring that person or persons to justice,” the At Home Advocacy website said.
“I don’t know exactly how to respond,” said Barbour, who provided behavioral consultation to the client. “I’m seeking legal counsel. It’s definitely not as they (DOH) present the case.”
The client lived in the home of the caregiver, who was employed by At Home Advocacy; and the caregiver “either harmed or allowed that level of harm to occur to this individual,” Barbour said.
“I had no awareness of what this caregiver was doing or allowing to be done to this client. I didn’t suspect anything, I didn’t fail to report anything, and I didn’t cover up anything. I had no idea.”