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State officials have shut down a special education program at the Lakeview Rehabilitation Center in Effingham. (JOHN KOZIOL/file)

Lakeview special education program shut down


CONCORD — State officials have shut down a special education program at the Lakeview Rehabilitation Center in Effingham, leaving school districts sending students to Lakeview only 60 days to find alternate placements.

The order by Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry was announced on the same day the state released an independent investigator’s report that criticized the state’s oversight of the neurological rehab center, prompting Gov. Maggie Hassan to call for a restructuring of the licensing unit in the Department of Health and Human Services to include staffing and administrative rules.

Click here to view Gov. Hassan's letter, with links to Commissioner Barry's letter and additional reports

Hassan ordered the independent review after a report by the nonprofit Disabilities Rights Center last fall raised serious concerns about Lakeview, as well the state’s oversight. She immediately halted new admissions to the 88-bed facility spread out over several acres with residential cabins, offices and a school.

A preliminary state investigation in December concluded that Lakeview is under-staffed and has not been complying with legal requirements to report abuse and neglect.

Kathryn du Pree, president of Crosswinds Consulting based in Old Lyme, Conn., was hired to conduct the independent investigations into the quality of services at the center and the state’s oversight. Her reports were released on Monday.

Regarding the quality of services, she wrote, “I have determined that (Lakeview) is lacking in many basic areas. Its mission and programming approach are not clear, the staffing remains insufficient, its involvement of families is poor and its quality assurance area is significantly under-resourced.”

But du Pree cautioned against closing the center too quickly, given the nature of its clients, many of whom come from out of state, and the lack of alternatives.

“A well-planned closure will require development of alternative for more than 60 individuals and coordination with state area agencies,” she wrote.

An April 10 letter from Commissioner of Education Virginia M. Barry orders the school to cease operations of its special education program immediately. The Department of Education will work with local school districts to find alternate placements for their students.

“Lakeview’s areas of non-compliance are extensive,” she wrote

Barry said the school can request a hearing before the State Board of Education. No one from Lakeview was available for comment as to whether the decision would be appealed.

Regarding state oversight, du Pree concluded, “There are elements of New Hampshire’s oversight and monitoring that are very workable, and other areas that need significant restructuring to meet the state’s obligations to its citizens and those from other states placed within its borders.”

In addition to maintaining the freeze on new admissions, the state has implemented regular safety and well-being monitoring programs at the center, Hassan said.

“This report makes clear that we must set — and hold — facilities like Lakeview to higher standards,” she said. “At the same time, we need to develop the infrastructure to ensure that Lakeview and similar facilities are only used for short-term care and that plans are in place to transition patients back to community-based care.”

On Sept. 30, the Concord-based Disability Rights Center said that Lakeview, over several years, “had engaged in a long-term pattern of poor treatment resulting in abuse and neglect, injuries and, in one case, death.”

Although Lakeview strongly disputed the DRC’s assertions, Hassan ordered the DHHS to immediately stop placing patients there and at a related center, The Meadows, in Belmont.

The state has upwards of 40 patients at Lakeview and as many as 20 in Belmont, most of whom have acquired brain disorders.

The outside review team headed by du Pree was at Lakeview for five days beginning Nov. 10.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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