- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 10, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Some Democratic lawmakers are working to bolster the oversight of care provided to developmentally disabled residents after a scathing federal audit said Maine was failing to protect them.

The audit last year revealed the state didn’t investigate unexplained deaths in group homes for the developmentally disabled. Maine also only investigated a small percentage of abuse complaints received, according to the report.

The state health department has said it has since improved its practices.

A bill by Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Parker would require Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to notify an advisory board of reports that an adult receiving developmental services has died as a result of abuse or neglect.

Democratic Rep. Dale Denno is sponsoring legislation to re-establish a state advocacy office that aims to protect the interests of residents with intellectual disabilities and autism.

Hearings are not yet set for the bills. The state health department doesn’t yet have an opinion on the bills, spokeswoman Emily Spencer said.

The bills will give the committee a chance to hear from the department about steps it has taken to improve its practices, said Democratic Rep. Patty Hymanson, the House chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has kept state Health and Human Services officials from having direct contact with the committee, which has been asked to submit written questions to the department, Hymanson said.

“These two bills give us a big opportunity to explore the issue, because it’s time to ask Commissioner (Ricker) Hamilton directly what has happened in this space of time,” Hymanson said.

A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said the office is reviewing audits uncovering similar concerns in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Audits haven’t impacted those states’ Medicaid funding. The office could consider Maine’s audit as it negotiates a Medicaid waiver.

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