State officials have revoked the operating license of a behavioral healthcare provider that had been New Jersey's largest group home manager for residents with developmental disabilities.

Bellwether Behavioral Health will no longer run its 62 homes across the state, serving about 460 residents, including day programs at seven sites.

Operations are being transferred to nine other service providers following a report issued by independent monitor Cathy Ficker Terrill, who was appointed in the fall of 2018.

Terrill reviewed the private, for-profit company’s system and found that out of 14 group homes already on provisional licenses, all but two were found "deficient in cleanliness" with bathrooms with smeared feces, kitchens covered in grease, vents covered with dust and dead bugs in light fixtures.

At least half had serious safety oversights, including a lack of complete first aid kits or consistent fire drills.

Other repeated issues with these locations included:

  • Numerous medication errors of documentation and administration
  • Outdated food with freezer burn
  • Knives and cleaning products not stored in a safe manner
  • All staff did not have documented criminal background checks

By the end of December 2018, another 12 homes were placed in provisional status, for a total of 26 Bellwether properties that were not meeting basic standards for health and safety in NJ.

"While action has been taken to address immediate concerns, the provider has not been able to demonstrate the systemic improvement needed to continue operations in our state," Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Jonathan Seifried said.

The company previously had been called Advoserv, but changed its name after 2015, amid reports of questionable practice and potential residential abuses in Florida. It was also acquired that year by Wellspring Capital Management, a New York private equity firm.

As reported by the New York Daily News, Delaware and Maryland stopped sending children to facilities run by the company years ago.

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