Report: State paying much more to care for developmentally disabled

Following the release last week of a report by Ken Block, there was a lot of examination as to where waste and fraud could be eliminated for taxpayer savings.

One section of the report pointed to the developmentally disabled, saying the state spends six times what private companies do. But digging deeper into that claim, NBC 10 learned it's two different kinds of patients.

Hundreds of developmentally disabled children and adults spend their work days at Access Point, one of many private companies in the state that serve this community.

The cost is a lot less than at the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, but the state hospital has to deal with more severely impaired patients.

"You have patients on ventilator beds. You have patients with a whole host of medical services that are not applicable to the nursing home arena," said Steven Costantino, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The private operators know that. They would like to serve as many people as they can, but not the criminally insane or the long-term acute care patients.

"In developmental disabilities, there are very few providers who have that kind of a specialty. There may be people who from time to time who move from the hospital into a DD group home, but that is based on them no longer needing that hospital level of care," said Tom Kane of Access Point.

The discrepancy between the cost of state patients versus private patients is explained, says the state, more by the different level of services required by the patients than it is by inherent inefficiencies in the state system.

"The patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital, which includes Zambarano and the Cranston campus, have much more difficult and medically challenged issues than those in traditional nursing homes," Costantino said.

Legislators have called for a study into why the state pays so much more for care for its patients, but it may be as simple as the type of patients in the state system.

Costantino said a new Slater Hospital, which he said could be built in less than three years, will be more efficient and that it might save taxpayers money when it is operating.