State agency shuts down another Hutto group home

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Aging and Disability Services (KXAN File Photo)
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Aging and Disability Services (KXAN File Photo)

HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) – A state agency has moved to decertify and terminate its contract with the operator of a Hutto group home, after it found multiple “serious” concerns, a spokesperson said.

According to Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services records, the agency received multiple complaints about Assurance Care Inc.’s home at 202 Peaceful Haven Way.

The series of complaints received by DADS since July alleged problems with nursing practices, quality of care, the living environment and patients’ rights. The review of Assurance Care’s contract is ongoing, said agency spokesperson Cecilia Cavuto.

Larry Eweka, CEO of Assurance Care, said he disputes the concerns noted by DADS. He has appealed the agency’s decision to terminate the company’s Home and Community-Based Services (HCS) contract.

“The allegations, that is not true,” Eweka said.

HCS locations are typically homes in residential neighborhoods in which services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are provided. The homes can house one or more people, or they can be an individual’s own home. The companies operating the homes receive payment through the state, which can range from an average of about $2,500 to more than $5,000, depending on the type of home and services provided, according to DADS.

DADS listed the following issues as “concerns” at the Peaceful Haven home.

  • Unauthorized use of physical restraint
  • Unsafe living environment due to not resolving home maintenance issues (no hot water, missing lights)
  • Falsely documenting medication administration records
  • No RN monitoring use of medications
  • Unlicensed, untrained staff use of psychotropic drugs without calling RN for approval

Eweka disputed the concerns noted by DADS and said he did not receive reports of those problems. Assurance Care took over the Peaceful Haven Way location from a different provider a few months ago, Eweka said.

According to records provided by DADS, the previous operator of the home was Michael Smith, former CEO of A Step Beyond. DADS shut down his company in June. Smith is also a Hutto City Council member and the city’s mayor pro tem.

As Eweka’s appeal is pending, DADS has stopped payment for all clients at all locations under the HCS contract. Assurance Care’s HCS contract includes 18 other Central Texas locations, according to DADS records.

Cavuto said, if necessary, local authorities would continue to offer choices of service for clients under Assurance Care’s HCS contract, so they would not be without services.

KXAN first learned about issues at the location from a concerned neighbor of the Peaceful Haven home.

Johnny Rushing told KXAN he has seen clients living at the Peaceful Haven location digging in the garbage outside, and he saw one patient bang his head against a window until it broke.

Rushing said his children “used to play outside all the time … now they are scared.” He said he had called adult protective services and DADS about problems at the home.

Cavuto said that anyone with knowledge of problems at a group home should contact both DADS and Department of Family and Protective Services. DADS, she said, has the capacity to investigate contractual obligations of service providers. DFPS, which is under Texas Adult Protective Services, has the authority to investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation allegations.

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