Wednesday, June 23, 2010

National disability fellowship awarded to Hawaii doctor linked to federal investigations into Olmstead violations

The Honolulu pediatrician who has received a prestigious Kennedy Foundation Fellowship has links to two on-going Federal inquiries into whether cuts in home services provided to people with disabilities violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dr. Jeffrey Okamoto has been the Medical Director of Hawaii's Developmental Disability Division of the Department of Health.  In December 2008, the Division announced an across-the board fifteen percent cut in home services for people with developmental disabilities.

Federal Medicaid regulators from CMS have been flying into Honolulu regularly since last fall, meeting with state officials to discuss the appropriateness of these cuts.  Discussions and personal meetings have expanded in scope.  I was asked by CMS to provide additional evidence as recently as last month.

In February, the Office for Civil Rights of DHHS opened their own formal investigation into whether the Developmental Disability Division's across-the-board service cuts violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dr. Okamoto intervened directly in my daughter's formal Department of Health appeal against the 15% cut in her nursing services, testifying unexpectedly at the hearing.  Because of that involvement, I have written testimony from Dr. Okamoto that I am willing to share with the public, even though it contains private medical information about my daughter.

He disputed Hannah's neurologist's evaluation and prescription for 24/7 skilled nursing in the home.  In written testimony presented to the Hearing Officer, Okamoto wrote: 
24/7 nursing as being requested by Dr. Griffiths should indicate that Hannah is not safe at home.  This even exceeds the hospital level of nursing provided.  If Hannah is safe at home, then 24/7 nursing should not be necessary.
The written decision of the Department of Health Hearing Officer rejected explicitly all of Dr. Okamoto's arguments.  This included Dr. Okamoto's attempt to link parental training to whether or not a child is safe living at home.

In spite of that written decision, Dr. Okamoto's concept that the safety of a disabled person in their home can be linked to the level of parental training has been expanded upon.  Honolulu civil rights attorney Rafael Del Castillo says he has seen the issue brought up in at least one other case, but by the Department of Human Services.

Earlier today I reported that these threats are being made to families even now, but by representatives from the two for-profit insurance companies that operate Hawaii Medicaid's special programs for people with disabilities.

These issues and complaints remain outstanding. 

The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, which has awarded Okamoto a Public Policy Fellowship, is devoted to furthering the rights of people with disabilities.  One has to wonder if anybody bothered to tell them that Hawaii's entire program of home and community services for the disabled is under a combination of formal, informal and criminal investigations by CMS, OCR and DOJ?

1 comment:

  1. Mom, I follow your blog constantly. I also know you from BrainTalk.

    I am sickened by this. I've just finished writing an email to the Kennedy Foundation about this.

    I hope that we can, at a minimum, get this award taken away from Dr. Okamoto.



About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.