COLUMBUS - SCOPE Inc. of Trumbull County has conceded it failed to meet a number of state requirements for criminal background checks and employee credentials, and now may lose its certification to provide Medicaid-related services.
Lawyers with Attorney General Mike DeWine's Office are seeking the revocation, saying at an administrative hearing Thursday at the Ohio Department of Aging that the severity of the misconduct warrants the action - or at the very least suspension for a ''good period of time.''
A recommendation could be made sometime in the next 30 days. SCOPE can object to the recommendation, which will be taken to ODA director Bonnie Kantor-Burman for a final decision.
Rather than contest the allegations on Thursday, SCOPE admitted truth to all but one of the state's allegations.
The state found during a review of SCOPE's records it did not do required criminal background checks on 16 employees hired in direct care positions and did not in a timely manner have the checks done for 26 other employees.
In one instance, a background check was done more than six years after an employee was hired. The check is supposed to be done no more than five days after conditional employment begins, under Ohio law.
As part of an agreement with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, SCOPE:
Admitted background checks were not done for 16 employees in direct care positions
Admitted checks were not done in a timely manner for 26 others
Admitted it failed to consider a disqualifying offense when hiring one worker in July 2010 and that it should not have hired another in August 2008
Admitted it did not keep an adequate background check log
Elected to not contest an allegation that it allowed an employee who was not licensed to give supervising services as a home care nurse
In addition, the state found SCOPE was not keeping an adequate criminal background log; it hired a man as a chore / homemaker worker in August 2008 who should not have been hired because of a disqualifying offense; and for another worker, SCOPE did not take in account a disqualifying offense when she was hired as a health aide / homemaker worker in July 2010.
SCOPE elected to not contest one other charge dealing with allowing an employee who was not a licensed registered or practical nurse to give supervising services as a home care nurse because the woman, Ayana Allen of Warren, has been charged by a grand jury with practicing nursing without a license.
''I don't think there is any sanction appropriate other than decertification,'' said Sallyann Steuk, assistant attorney general.
SCOPE interim director Ralph Smith testified at the hearing that when he took over when former director Janet Schweitzer left - shortly after the ODA findings were made public - he immediately began attempts to remedy the issues by reorganizing the operation and diversifying authority.
The agency did not have a human resources person or compliance officer, he said.
''Everything flowed to one desk, mine,'' Smith said.
Now, there are the beginnings of a human resources department. An employee has been in training and Smith said he has arranged for her to train with the former personnel director at Trumbull Memorial Hospital.
He also testified that SCOPE is considering a merger with Family and Community Services in Ravenna, which already has human resources, grant writing and compliance knowledge.
Smith also said he understood the severity of the charges, especially those dealing with criminal background checks for workers.
''Obviously, if you are going to be dealing with people who are limited ... you've got to have somebody who is capable of dealing with them responsibly,'' Smith said.
SCOPE attorney Thomas Carey noted the allegations didn't relate to client harm or financial loss. He also asked to be taken into account the ''significant impact'' of the services SCOPE provides in the county.
SCOPE already is without the Medicaid funding, cut off when the Area Agency on Aging 11, which does oversight, removed all of SCOPE's clients in the Medicaid-funded PASSPORT program, a program for adult day care, homemaker and personal care services and then didn't renew SCOPE's Title III contract for similar services.
That has caused the agency to make personnel cuts, down to 50 now compared to about 105 this time last year, Smith said.
''The sanctions that have been placed on us have impacted that many people,'' Smith said.