The road to recertification for Oakwood is officially underway, as the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) officially filed an application with federal Medicaid providers this week.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will evaluate the progress made at the Bluegrass Oakwood Community Center, which lost funding for its residents following a string of Type A citations for incidents of abuse and neglect in 2005 and 2006.

Funding had continued throughout an appeals process and the change in management to the Bluegrass Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, which appeared to stop the bleeding in terms of citations. However, in April of this year, an administrative law judge ruled that CMS was within its rights to terminate the troubled facility’s federal cash flow, posing a threat to the future of Oakwood.

Thursday’s application formally begins the quest to regain certification for Oakwood — essentially treating it as a brand-new facility without its checkered past. That’s essentially what it is, since citations have virtually disappeared since Bluegrass took over in November of 2006. Oakwood received only three such penalties last year and recent interviews with employees have suggested morale is the highest it’s been in memory.

CMS will make two unannounced surveys as part of the recertification gauntlet — an initial survey and a second one to occur between 30 and 120 days after the first.

“It is our expectation that the initial survey will pay close attention to areas related to the 2005 conditions that caused the termination of Medicaid financial participation,” said CHFS Secretary Janie Miller.

Early this month, Bluegrass CEO Joseph Toy told the Somerset Rotary Club that he expected the survey could possibly come within four to six weeks, meaning it could be very soon if Toy’s guess proves correct.

“In my estimation, I can think of no reason why they would not recertify the facility,” said Toy at that time. “If it’s a fair survey, done by fair people, it will absolutely pass with flying colors. I would stake my reputation on this — Oakwood is the best (such facility) in the state right now today. There’s no chance it shouldn’t pass.”

The Cabinet has applied for Oakwood to be certified as four facilities, dividing the campus into four different units under the direction of a facility director and four unit administrators. Oakwood has been licensed and surveyed as four units in the past.

“For instance, homes 1-7 would form a unit with a unit administrator overseeing just those homes ... and they would then answer to an administrator overseeing all four units,” said CHFS spokesperson Gwenda Bond. “You could zero in quicker on issues that might arise ... although policies and procedures will be consistent through all four homes. It’s a management structure that’s more manageable.”

Oakwood was divided up this way in years past, but that stopped in 2005. The Department of Justice has recommended returning to such a structure as part of Oakwood’s rehabilitation process.

“As part of our preparation for the recertification process, CMS recommended that we engage independent consultants to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the facility,” said Miller. “From this assessment, the Cabinet and the Bluegrass Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, our management partner, established a joint team assigned to work on improving specific areas.”

Getting Medicaid funding back is imperative for the state, since it’s left footing the expensive $70 million annual bill with CMS out of the picture. Federal money ate up about 70 percent of that figure when it was available.

“We appreciate all the hard work by Bluegrass and Cabinet staff to prepare for these important surveys,” said Miller.

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