MaryAnne Lindeblad took over as top regulator of adult family homes in the state of Washington on Monday, replacing Kathy Leitch, whose division oversaw the fast-growing care sector since 2000 in the Department of Social and Health Services.
Lindeblad was promoted to assistant secretary of the Aging and Disability Services Administration at DSHS, the state’s largest agency. Leitch is stepping aside to take a new role focused on “initiatives to improve the quality of adult family homes and modernize the adult protective system,” according to DSHS.
The leadership change comes after The Seattle Times reported earlier this year on problems in the fast-growing adult home sector that included patients’ deaths, neglect and injuries in state-licensed facilities. DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus has disputed media accounts that suggested Leitch was demoted or moved aside on account of news stories that exposed weaknesses in the oversight of homes.
Dreyfus told supporters in an e-mail recently that her decision to change leaders “is about the future and our need to yield the most from health care reform for our vulnerable populations.”
She added: “We will be moving from a fee-for-service delivery system to quality integrated person-centered health care. I am confident the change in leadership I have made will give us the best chance to continue our commitment to home- and community-based services and implement our state’s health care reform goals for improving vulnerable persons’ health and quality of life while controlling costs.”
DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said Lindeblad will earn $124,008 and Leitch will continue at her salary of $122,868.
Democratic state Sen. Karen Keiser of Des Moines said Monday that she is working with consumers and the adult home industry on legislation to improve the oversight and care in the state’s roughly 3,000 licensed homes. The legislation would raise fees on adult homes, which serve up to six clients at a time.
“We tried last session – actually the last two years – to do a better job. We ran into a lot of opposition from the industry and they were able to kill it. They are able to portray themselves as small businesses in a legislator’s district,’’ Keiser said.
This time around she wants to give a larger voice to consumers and is talking to relatives of people who have received poor care in the homes.
Retiring state Rep. Brendan Williams, who led the state nursing home association before he entered the Legislature in 2005, said Washington has earned good marks for reducing care costs by using such innovations as adult-family homes. But he said he thinks the state might have gone too far – “pounding round pegs into square holes when it comes to some of these placement decisions with respect to Medicaid clients.’’
Williams said Leitch was “extremely knowledgeable” but that he welcomes the changes at DSHS after seeing problems at the agency.
Lindeblad moved from her role since 2006 as director of the Division of Healthcare Services in DSHS’ former Health and Recovery Services Administration. She also has served locally as president of the Olympia Free Medical Clinic since May and was one of a half-dozen Medicaid experts from around the country chosen nationally to be in the Medicaid Leadership Institute’s first class, according to DSHS.
She also was one of six local women given this year’s YWCA Women of Achievement award.