- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A manager of Medicaid services in Iowa has been chosen to lead a Rhode Island agency that agreed last year to reform its employment services for the mentally disabled amid allegations it violated their rights for years.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office announced Tuesday she would nominate Maria Montanaro as director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees care for adults with mental health needs. The nomination is subject to approval from the state Senate.

The former director of the department, Craig Stenning, resigned this month after Raimondo, a Democrat, made clear she would not reappoint him. Stenning was first appointed in 2008 by Republican Gov. Don Carcieri and reappointed in 2011 by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, then an independent.

The state last year entered into a 10-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first statewide settlement of its kind. The state agreed to overhaul employment services to the mentally disabled, many of whom were working for little or even no pay in so-called sheltered workshops. The average pay was $2.21 an hour.

The state said it would close many of the workshops and keep some open, but with the goal of moving people out of them and into different, integrated programs within a few months.

At the time the settlement was announced, the Justice Department said Rhode Island was not unique and the problem was widespread across the country.

Raimondo’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday. In a written statement, Raimondo did not mention the consent decree, but referred generally to challenges the department faces.

“It is widely known that there are several challenges facing BHDDH that are holding us back from providing families with the safe, quality care they deserve,” she said. “Maria has spent her career finding ways to improve services and outcomes for families. She will be an excellent addition to our health and human services team.”

Montanaro has worked since 2012 as the chief executive officer of Magellan Behavioral Care of Iowa. The governor’s office said she had managed over $330 million in Medicaid services for 450,000 recipients.

Prior to that, she worked in Rhode Island as chief executive officer of Thundermist Health Center from 1997 to 2011, and as senior adviser for integrated health management services at Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Rhode Island. She has a master’s of social work from the University of Illinois and a bachelor of science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.



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