2016-10-20 / Around Town

Maher Center Appeals Probationary Designation

By James Merolla

The James L. Maher Center is appealing a decision of the Executive Office of Health & Human Services to downgrade the center’s license status from “full” to “conditional.”

The center was cited on Oct. 1 for not complying with state regulations after an investigation revealed that it allegedly “abandoned” one of its clients at Newport Hospital. It was said that the Maher Center failed to “provide the clinical basis for the decision to terminate services” and failed “to work with the participant, legal guardian and/or advocate to maintain such services,” and did not properly communicate with the woman’s family in Cranston.

A state official confirmed in a story published in the Providence Journal that the move means that the center is on probation. The probationary status will be in place until April 1, when the center will be re-assessed by the state board that regulates facilities for those with developmental disabilities.

The center is a unique, multifaceted operation that has helped hundreds of adults with disabilities become more confident and independent through daily and weekly activities. Operating since 1953, it has never faced such a verdict before and is currently the only such organization in Rhode Island designated with a temporary probationary downgrade.

According to the Maher website, the center fosters independence and opportunities for individuals with developmental or other disabilities by promoting integration in housing, employment and social engagement. Approximately 300 families throughout Newport and Bristol counties are currently being served. The center operates 11 group homes and 12 apartments, and has established day programs where participants work in jobs commensurate with their abilities.

In March of last year, the center was forced to reduce the number of its disabled workers as Rhode Island, implementing a mandate issued through the federal Department of Justice, sought to eliminate programs deemed to segregate individuals from the broader community. The federal action affected Maher clients who had been working at the center’s full-service garden center.

When contacted by Newport This Week, Maher Center Executive Director William Maraziti said that while he would “dearly like to get our side of the story out,” he has been advised not to comment publicly on the situation until the appeal against the downgrade of the center’s license is heard.

“What I can say, and have said to our employees and members, is that we disagree with the conclusions contained in the investigatory report that was the basis for the licensing action and have availed ourselves of the appeal process which is ongoing. Our immediate concern is for our staff, who give selflessly of themselves in support of the individuals whose care has been entrusted to us,” said Maraziti.

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