State Scrambles For Options As Main Incapacity Companies Supplier Plans Exit

PORTLAND, Oregon – An Oregon company is closing its group homes and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities after years of state and federal scrutiny for abuse and neglect of the people they care for, state officials said this month.

Mentor Oregon’s departure will be the greatest of its kind in memory, said advocate and a senior state official, and it will likely prove to be a challenge to Oregon’s already strained disability service system.

The closure will mean that around 1,300 people will need new service providers by August 31. Only 25 of these people live in shared flats and may need to move if the state cannot do business to keep operations running.

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“We’re not focusing too much on why right now,” said Lilia Teninty, director of Oregon Developmental Disability Services, of Mentor’s abrupt decision to leave. Instead, she said, the state is “focused on continuity” for those currently receiving mentoring services.

Most worrying for the state is case management in Mentor Oregon’s business. The company helps adult Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities connect with personal collaborators who come to their homes or take them to the community to social events.

Most other companies serve up to 700 employees, by and large, Teninty said, which puts Mentor in a league of its own.

It’s unclear whether other case management companies in Oregon have the capacity to take on Mentor’s workload. Even if this is the case, more than a thousand people with disabilities could lose their case managers entirely or have to adapt to new ones, which means new emotional and logistical burdens for people with developmental disabilities.

Teninty said she was “very confident the transition will happen,” at least in part through new or expanded contracts. “We have processes in place,” said Teninty.

Oregon officials are also working to find other companies to run for Mentor so the group’s residents – some of whom have lived in the same location for years – don’t have to move.

Mentor Oregon, a local subsidiary of The Mentor Network, announced that it is leaving the company due to external factors, including insufficient staff to ensure the best possible care. According to the company’s 2018 public filings, The Mentor Network has served nearly 13,000 people in residential settings nationwide.

“Our priority remains the well-being of the people who are important to us,” said spokeswoman Teresa Prego in a written statement. “We will work tirelessly to help them transition out of our care and to have access to support to meet their individual needs.”

It is unclear what, if anything, Mentor Oregon’s departure has to do with recent official and public scrutiny.

The US Senate Finance Committee examined the company’s operations in Iowa and Oregon and released its findings in December. The investigation was sparked in part by a 2019 article in The Oregonian / OregonLive describing such serious neglect at a mentor house in Curry County.

According to the finance committee report, Mentor Oregon continued to provide poor supplies in the final weeks of the investigation, which resulted in the group home being further closed.

More than 30,000 Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive assistance from Oregon Developmental Disability Services through contracts with providers such as Mentor Oregon. About 3,200 people live in around 980 residential groups across the state, with the largest provider managing 45 apartments.

Mentor Oregon’s presence has decreased in recent years, with 21 homes closed due to government regulation since 2018. Only nine apartments with 25 residents remain in the company’s portfolio.

Five of Mentors Homes are in Klamath County, a southern Oregon jurisdiction with only six residential groups for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The director of the local developmental disabilities agency said he was talking to other vendors about a takeover for the company and hoped the process would go so smoothly that residents would barely notice.

“This is her home,” said Myles Maxey of the 15 Klamath County residents under Mentor’s care.

Despite mentor’s history, Maxey said he was disappointed the company was leaving the state. The care in the company’s group houses has improved since 2019, he said.

Toni Larson, Oregon’s leading advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in shared apartments, said Mentor’s departure was welcome given the current conditions.

“If you can’t provide that service, that’s a good decision,” said Larson, Oregon Housing Ombudsman.

Larson said she and her staff will actively monitor the process, including by helping residents know they have the right to choose where to live and that the location offered to them meets their needs.

“I think it’s ambitious with so many people,” said Larson of the possibility that 25 people will soon need a new home.

Katie Rose, executive director of a trade association for disability case management companies, said Mentor’s sudden departure could create significant difficulties for many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“For a lot of people, that means a big change in a relatively short amount of time,” said Rose.

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