Defending Your Career When Dealing With The Connecticut Department Of Development Services (DDS)
By: Cody N. Guarnieri, Esq.
The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is the Connecticut state agency responsible for the planning, developing and administering services throughout the State of Connecticut for persons with intellectual disabilities. DDS provides these services through a wide network of private provider agencies which are under contract with DDS. These agencies may provide services which including residential placement, home supports, employment programs and clinical services.
Naturally, this system relies on the many people employed by the private agencies contracted with DDS to provide services to this population. While the private agencies provide the direct services, DDS coordinates directs and oversees many aspects of these services. An important oversight that DDS oversees is that the individuals employed by the service providers are appropriate and capable of providing the services. This is particularly important for the many individuals who have found their calling in or devoted their professional livelihood to caring for and providing services to the intellectually disabled.
Ultimately, DDS has established and maintains an abuse and neglect registry (the “Registry”) which maintains certain information regarding former employees of the private agencies with which DDS contract who have been terminated as a result of substantiated abuse or neglect of an individual who receives services through DDS. Abuse is considered a willful act of inflicting physical pain, injury, financial exploitation, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or depriving an individual of services necessary for their physical or mental health or safety. Neglect is an employee’s failure to provide the individual with the services necessary to maintain that person’s physical and mental health and safety.
The Registry is not public, but only available to certain authorized state agencies, employers contracted with DDS and certain charitable organizations that provide services to DDS clients. Essentially, placement on the Registry makes the person unemployable by any service provider, charity or state agency that services the intellectually disabled that receive services though DDS. Thus, an employee who devotes his professional life to service intellectually disabled individuals with DDS is essentially unable to continue in their chosen career.
However, what is crucial for individuals who are being investigated or whom DDS is attempting to place on their abuse and neglect Registry to understand is that you have certain rights under the law in Connecticut. You must be notified if, as a result of the investigation of your employer and subsequent termination, that DDS seeks to place your name on their Registry. This ultimately means that DDS has reviewed the employer’s investigation, conducted any additional investigation deemed necessary, and substantiated the employer’s conclusion of abuse and/or neglect. Moreover, you have the right to an administrative hearing to contest your name being placed on the Registry and, thereby, affecting your ability to be employed by DDS or any DDS service provider.
Should the individual facing placement on the Registry desire to contest that placement, DDS must make the investigation report and any supporting documents available for review, with certain personally identifying information removed. DDS must also inform the person of a date, time and location for the hearing to determine whether they should be placed on the Registry. The hearing is presided over by a hearing officer appointed by the Commissioner of DDS, who are not employees of DDS.
It is also important to recognize that hearings held by DDS, a Connecticut state agency, must follow certain procedures, which are laid out in Connecticut’s Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). Ultimately, the hearing officer can consider all relevant evidence to determine (1) whether the individual was an employee of DDS or a qualifying service provider contracted by, licensed by or funded by DDS, (2) whether the individual was fired by the employer for abuse or neglect, (3) whether the allegations of abuse or neglect were substantiated by DDS, and (4) whether the allegation of abuse or neglect are supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
It is through an administrative hearing that a coherent, competent, well thought out and executed defense can make all the difference in protecting your chosen career. Within a short period of time following the hearing a proposed decision will be issued by the hearing officer and, shortly thereafter, that decision will usually be adopted by and made a final decision by the Commissioner of DDS.
The best strategy in dealing with an Abuse or Neglect investigation or hearing with DDS is to be proactive. By the time that you are made aware of DDS’s involvement with your termination from a service provider there are materials in a DDS file to review and a defense waiting to be crafted. There is often a considerably more complicated dynamic at your workplace and with the circumstances leading to your termination than DDS knows. You worked long and hard to develop your career and build your professional reputation. When both are in placed in jeopardy by involvement with DDS, contact an experienced and competent attorney that can help you protect interests in your livelihood and future.