New provider for disabled Vermonters after shakeup at Green Mountain Support Services

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 12:15 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:59 PM EDT
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new provider is taking over the care of more than 100 Vermont adults with disabilities. The move comes after state regulators temporarily stripped Green Mountain Support Services of the ability to run its own business in the midst of a Medicaid fraud investigation and concerns over leadership.

The Morrisville-based Green Mountain Support Services provides transportation, companionship, personal care, employment and community support to 122 adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.

But in October, state regulators saw red flags when they looked at the books.

A shakeup in leadership and operation at Green Mountain Support Services in Morrisville, Waterbury and St. Johnsbury. For the past year, state regulators have been looking into the organization’s provisional designation status which allows them to operate and receive state funds.

“A number of issues coming up pertaining to quality of services delivered to individuals,” said Monica White, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Aging & Independent Living or DAIL.

In the fall of 2021, state regulators put them on notice, but White says they failed to correct their behavior. So two weeks ago, in a letter to GMSS Board Chair Steve Peterson obtained by WCAX News, GMSS lost its state specialized service agency designation.

White expresses concerns over Green Mountain Support Service’s leadership and financial practices. The letter also outlines an investigation from the attorney general’s office over potentially fraudulent Medicaid billing, an alleged failure to oversee services and living placements, and a failure to comply with state Medicaid rules.

Removal of the designation would have taken away GMSS’s ability to receive Medicaid funds from the state.

“It was a difficult decision because knowing the potential impacts on the 122 persons served by GMSS, the staff of GMSS and contracted providers of GMSS-- the impact would be significant,” White said.

GMSS Executive Director Josh Smith and Board President Steve Peterson both stepped down. Neither responded to requests for comment.

But last week state leaders reached a deal to make sure families continue to have services. Colchester-based Champlain Community Services is assuming operational control to get GMSS back on track.

“The first thing we’ll do is make sure people in services are steady getting what they need,” said Beth Sightler, the executive director of Champlain Community Services.

Sightler says they want to make the transition as seamless as possible. Sightler says they are ready to support vulnerable Vermonters but adds staffing will be a challenge. And she is thankful for the support of other service providers across Vermont.

“We have tremendous support from our colleagues in the network across the state that are all supporting us and doing this,” Sightler said.

This is the first time in recent memory state regulators moved to strip a specialized service provider of its designation.

I asked White if lawmakers should look into better oversight of these organizations. She told me those discussions are ongoing with state lawmakers and the state and federal government.