(Source: Star Tribune)
A large and troubled provider of services to Minnesota adults with disabilities has agreed to be acquired nearly five months after state regulators revoked its license for numerous health and safety violations.
Bridges MN, which has about 400 clients and more than 90 group homes statewide, has struck a deal to be taken over by Fort Worth, Texas-based Caregiver Inc., which provides residential and in-home support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in five states, according to a letter sent to clients last week. The transaction is expected to close by January 20, the provider said.
The deal, if approved, would save Bridges MN from being shut down or taken over by state regulators — an outcome that could have upended care for hundreds of people who rely on the St. Paul-based provider for supportive housing, employment and other services. These clients have been in limbo since late June, when the state Department of Human Services (DHS) took the unusual step of revoking Bridges MN’s license because of “serious and repeated” violations and findings of maltreatment involving vulnerable adults.
In interviews, some people who rely on Bridges MN for services said they have been anxious about losing their services since the summer. Finding alternative providers is daunting at a time when care providers across the state are struggling with staff shortages and thousands of caregiving jobs are going unfilled. Some social workers and families report waits of a year or longer for spots in group homes or day activity centers that support people with disabilities.
“This [acquisition] avoids the nightmare scenario,” said Barnett Rosenfield, state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities. “Under that scenario, everybody would be scrambling and you’d end up with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients getting put into nursing facilities, group homes or other institutional settings that lack the capacity to serve them well.”
In written statements, Bridges MN has said the state’s allegations of failure to report and maltreatment violations were “wrong and exaggerated” and contained factual mistakes. In July, Bridges MN appealed the state’s license revocation order, which set in motion a regulatory process for determining whether the provider would be allowed to continue operating.
Bridges MN issued a statement from its co-founder and president of disability services, Blake Elliott, that read in part, “As we’ve gotten to know [Caregiver], it’s clear they share our person-centered approach to those we serve. By joining our two organizations, we gain the experience and resources of a large, experienced partner committed to our growth and improvement goals.”
The proposed deal follows a history of regulatory problems at Bridges MN, which has been sanctioned more than 50 times the past two years. Those include reports of unsanitary conditions, failure to provide basic care, failure to complete background checks on new hires and failure to report maltreatment, state records show.