Many of you may have heard or seen reports in local media about Orange Grove lately, and we just wanted to touch base with you about what you may have heard and about concerns you might have. First of all, we want you to know the State investigations referenced in media reporting are part of the regular process all Providers like Orange Grove participate in as one aspect of delivering the best services and programs to those we serve. The State of TN has carefully built a rigorous reporting and investigation procedure to investigate allegations of harm to those individuals we serve.
Orange Grove and other providers are heavily regulated by local, state, and federal agencies. That’s a good thing, because we are charged with taking care of some the most vulnerable members of our community. The safety and wellbeing of those we serve is of paramount importance not just to the governing agencies, but to us as a Provider, to our staff members, and to the families, friends, and loved ones of those we serve.
Doesn’t Orange Grove just take care of people on their campus in Glenwood?
No. What we do on a daily basis at Orange Grove and in our community is complex. We serve about 270 individuals in residential programs. We serve some 550 in day programs – many of them in the community; some of them on campus. We have 160 vehicles that travel 2 million miles a year getting people where they need to be, including their homes, their medical appointments, their jobs, or their weekday or weekend activities. We have 850 staff members.
How do you hire the right people for difficult jobs?
Every staff member first undergoes an extensive screening process that includes fingerprinting and background checks. Hired staff then go through extensive training – both general and specific to the job they were hired for. Every staff member gets retrained as needed for job changes and annually – with training designed by the State. Every staff member is subject to random drug testing.
What about all the incidents the news media has reported?
Some news channels have reported on the number of investigations and substantiations for abuse, neglect, or exploitation since 2012. Orange Grove takes every allegation very seriously, but these numbers should be considered in the context of the scope of what we do 24/7/365. A rough estimate of the number of hours over the course of a year in direct support of the individuals we serve is 832,000. Regardless, our goal is the highest level of service and no substantiated findings.
The number of substantiations media is reporting since 2012 sounds like a lot. Is it?
Of course, we would all like that number to be zero. We work toward that every day, in just about everything we do. But our “rate of substantiation” is much better than what it is for most agencies across the state. DIDD says that our substantiation rate is half the substantiation rate of the average of all other agencies in TN. A lot of that has to do with the reporting and investigation system set up in TN, which encourages agencies and staff to report – so that together we can work toward making services and programs for those we serve the best they can be.
How do the state investigations work?
As soon as Orange Grove is aware of a reportable event or incident, the TN State Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) is called. Other investigating agencies may also be called, depending on what the incident is. And of course, we also notify the family or conservator of any individual involved in the incident. But Orange Grove calling DIDD is not the only way incidents are reported. DIDD may learn about incidents from people in the community, or even staff directly. DIDD even accepts anonymous reports. Regardless of how they get a report, DIDD fully investigates the allegations, and usually asks Orange Grove NOT to conduct an independent, internal investigation. DIDD generally completes their investigations in 30 days. They share with Orange Grove their findings and conclusions, and on the basis of that report, Orange Grove takes appropriate action. While DIDD investigates, the staff implicated in the incident are placed on administrative leave.
What happens when an incident is substantiated?
If DIDD substantiates an incident, Orange Grove takes measures to address the issue. DIDD must approve Orange Grove’s plan. Appropriate actions can range from additional training to terminating the employment of staff members involved in the incident. Each plan is customized to the incident – and we do our best to put into place procedures that may help prevent the incident from happening again. Orange Grove takes very seriously every allegation of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of those people we serve. We work hard to prevent them from happening. We report them as soon as we know about an incident. We work with DIDD and/or any investigating authority to find out what happened. We follow up on the incidents that are substantiated, and work hard so that they don’t happen again.
We value the trust the State, the families, and this community have placed in us to provide services and programs for individuals with IDD. We don’t take that trust for granted. We work hard every day to earn and keep that trust. Thank you for taking the time to better informed about what we do and how the process works.