By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County commissioners have written a letter to the Ohio Department of Aging asking that it not permanently revoke the provider certification of SCOPE Inc. of Trumbull County as a long-term care agency.
“The proposed punishment being considered will, in all likelihood, block SCOPE Inc. from participating, not just in future long-term-care state and federal programs, but such a permanent designation will also greatly handicap its ability to participate in any local and private programs,” the commissioners said.
SCOPE is a nonprofit organization that expanded significantly after county voters approved a senior citizens levy in 2005 that gave SCOPE the money to open several new senior centers and provide additional in-home services to seniors.
But in April, based on a review conducted by the Ohio Department of Health, SCOPE was suspended from the federal PASSPORT program, meaning the agency no longer would be able to provide services that paid the agency about $470,000 in 2011.
The state took the action after discovering that SCOPE had not followed several laws and rules. For instance, SCOPE had not performed criminal-background checks on 22 employees who provided direct care to clients and failed to secure background checks for 29 other employees within five business days.
SCOPE also hired two employees with criminal records — one in 2008 and one in 2010 — to work directly with clients when the offenses should have prohibited them from being hired, ODA said.
According to commissioners, SCOPE has laid off 72 workers since the allegations came to light, and the agency shut down its home-care and adult day-care programs.
More than 300 SCOPE clients have had to find new service providers, and about 30 have been unable to find a substitute provider, the letter said.
SCOPE hired Ralph Smith to replace the former director, Janet Schweitzer, and Smith has reorganized the organization.
“Not a single, ultimate-decision-maker responsible for the violations remains employed at SCOPE,” the letter says.
The commissioners ask that instead of a permanent license revocation, a more appropriate punishment might be a suspension for a specific time period.
Jennifer Seidel, the department of aging’s chief of communications, said she expects Bonnie Kantor-Burdman, department director, to decide what action to take against SCOPE within the next week or so.
Commissioner Frank Fuda said one reason commissioners want SCOPE to remain a viable organization is so senior citizens don’t have to be assigned a different service provider.
In one case this year, some of the services SCOPE was providing had to be given to a provider in Mahoning County, which made transportation more difficult for some people, Fuda said.