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Monday, August 6, 2012 - Page updated at 04:00 p.m.
State should step in at Normandy Park group home
BEFORE state regulators can monitor a Normandy Park treatment clinic and residential home for mentally ill and drug-addicted patients, they must thoroughly investigate the facility to understand what's going on.
The residence on a bucolic street does not provide treatment or medications on-site. That appears to be an artful evasion of the state Department of Health, which oversees residential treatment facilities. It is also a red flag that the owner of the facility, California-based Hanbleceya, is not operating with complete transparency.
Health Department officials have countered the approach with only checks of the facility's website and a phone conversation with a facility employee. Department officials announced plans Friday for further scrutiny, including a site visit. Good.
The goal is to find a way to provide state oversight of what appears to be a new breed of group home with a promising mix of treatment and semi-independent living.
Encouraging news comes from state Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who intends to explore new regulations for facilities like Hanbleceya. She should find support in the state Legislature.
At the very least, Hanbleceya ought to provide the on-site supervised care that would bring its homes under the regulatory eye of the state Department of Social and Health Services.
At stake is a community's sense of security and public accountability. There have been suicide attempts by patients living at the facility. Company officials admitted one client became upset and shattered a window with his fist. Neighbors rightly deserve assurances about security and safety.
Treatment and living expenses can run patients $100,000 a year, typically paid by private insurance. Residents at the facility and their families are better served by a minimum level of quality care backed by active state oversight.
Health officials should not miss an opportunity to help shape what may become a promising model of treatment and care of people with disabilities and those suffering from drug addiction or mental illnesses in residential settings, rather than hospitals and institutions.
Setting clear standards is the answer. The sooner the better. In addition to the Normandy Park property, Hanbleceya has bought three homes, rented two and publicly stated plans to expand in Normandy Park and beyond.
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