Blossom Philadelphia's deficient care for the disabled continues

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Blossom Philadelphia is turning over the residential care for the 89 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to four providers Pennsylvania officials selected, but problems with care continue.

Three weeks after Blossom Philadelphia decided to exit the business of residential services for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults and state officials started working on the transition of 89 Blossom clients to new providers, problems with the care at Blossom continue, adding to months of trauma for residents.

This week, an individual in one of Blossom’s 32 houses who required tube feeding landed in a hospital emergency room because Blossom staff did not feed him or could not figure out when he had last been fed.

“The department is aware of the incident and is currently investigating,” the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said in an email Friday.

The incident set off alarms in the advocacy community.

“Like many, I’ve been horrified, and now am wondering what safeguards have been put in place to keep more atrocities from occurring,” Marianne Roche, who has worked in the intellectual disabilities field for 50 years, wrote Thursday in an email to state and city officials, offering “to do unannounced monitoring in these homes.”

The key state figures handling Blossom are Nancy Thaler, deputy secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs in the state Human Services Department, and  Rochelle Zaslow, who runs the programs in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The offer was not accepted, but the Human Services Department said it was adding additional oversight during the holidays.

“The department is keenly aware that people can be at risk during transitions. We are taking every precaution to ensure each individual’s safety, as well as helping individuals have a good holiday,” the department’s email said.

The department said it has confidence in the four new nonprofit agencies it picked to assume the care of Blossom’s clients. The target date for the transition to Barber National Institute, JEVS Human Services, KenCrest, and the Salvation Army is Friday, though contracts have not yet been signed.

JEVS is in talks with the state about possibly taking over 10 of Blossom’s homes, spokeswoman Kristen Rantanen said Thursday.

The Philadelphia nonprofit has a couple dozen new hires in training to work at the Blossom facilities and hopes to have a second group start training next week, Rantanen said. She said the organization had received at least 500 applications.

Barber is looking at another 10 of the houses. Having new providers in place by Friday is an aggressive and optimistic goal, said John Barber, the Erie nonprofit’s chief executive, on Friday. “Staff need to be trained in the state-mandated trainings and they need to be trained in the person-specific trainings,” he said. Each house requires roughly 10 staff members, Barber said.

KenCrest, a Blue Bell nonprofit, plans to take on eight of the houses. The Salvation Army could not be reached for comment this week.

The Human Services Department revoked Blossom’s license on Oct. 24. The Chestnut Hill nonprofit was cited for failing repeatedly to fix problems and to report incidents as required by law. After outsourcing its residential staff in July, untrained staff were used in the houses. The staff neglected the personal hygiene of residents, many of whom are in wheelchairs and can’t speak. Residents were sometimes not getting their medications because Blossom did not have enough people trained to administer medications.

Blossom had a chance to appeal the license revocation, but its board voted Thanksgiving week to exit the business.