IS LIFESPIRE LACKING?

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Workers at Lifespire, a local nonprofit that serves the developmentally disabled, say management is not offering adequate care to the agency’s 4,500 consumers. In a complaint filed by Civil Services Employees Association Local 1000 with the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), Lifespire workers have alleged 350 new violations ranging from lack of medical supplies and short staffing to inadequate training. Local 1000 is organizing Lifespire’s 1,400 staff members who provide educational and recreational programs at 59 sites throughout the city [see “Lifespire Under Fire”, 8/15/05]. “If someone needs help or has to go to the bathroom, one staffer must help them, but because of short staffing, the others are left unsupervised,” said Natasha James, who works at a Lifespire facility in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Lifespire was cited in 2002 by the OMRDD for failure to thoroughly investigate the “nature of health care” given to a consumer who died in the hospital after being treated at Lifespire. The agency was also cited in 2004 for not sufficiently investigating injuries, such as “large abrasions” and “open sores” that some consumers sustained at Lifespire’s facilities. Lifespire management responded to the violations by holding staff training sessions on investigation procedures, according to the OMRDD. A spokesperson from the OMRDD said her agency had received Local 1000’s complaints, but stated that Lifespire is in “good standing.” Lifespire receives the majority of its funds from the state, and the union’s uphill battle to organize staff members has drawn the support of some elected officials. “It’s incredibly important that this government-supported organization sit down and bargain in good faith,” said State Senator Tom Duane. Lifespire Executive Vice President Tom McAlvanah emphasized that the agency has an internal chain of command that fields complaints, and is audited every year by the OMRDD. “Safety of consumers is paramount,” he said. (B. Baumer) [11/21/05]