As one of the nation’s largest providers of autism services in the country, more than 2,000 children and their families trust Centria with critical care and support. We take that responsibility seriously. The safety and well-being of the children we serve is always our most urgent priority, so it was heartbreaking that one of our employees, despite background checks and training, failed to meet that standard earlier this year.
It is fortunate that we have systems in place to protect the children under our care, including video cameras in our centers to record our interactions with clients. As previously mentioned in our blog and despite The Detroit Free Press headline stating that our employee was “caught on tape,” our video cameras recorded the incident in March, and we were the ones who reported the incident to the police and proper authorities and terminated the individual. And given privacy considerations, we posted news about the incident on our own blog as soon as we could.
This year alone, Centria will deliver almost two million hours of therapy, and thankfully, after eight years of providing autism services, we have had only two incidents like this. We have strengthened our training protocols and continue to do everything in our power to prevent anything like this from happening again.
Like anyone who works in schools, day care facilities, nursing homes or other centers where care is provided, our support staff work in challenging environments. It is why we do extensive background checks and provide intensive training, and any kind of abuse will never be tolerated.
We are constantly seeking best practices in our field, as well as researching and developing our own, as it pertains to training, screening and optimal outcomes for the clients we serve. We believe this pursuit of continuous improvement helps us to be on the leading edge of providing the best quality ABA therapy available.
We are reaching out to other providers of autism services, pediatric groups and nonprofits to develop some national standards that can govern how treatment of autism is approached across the country. If that initiative is successful, some of the ambiguity will be taken out of the system and children will be getting care based on mutually agreed upon best practices.
We also recently announced that we are spending $5 million over the next five years to advance research on evidence-based practices to help children with ASD achieve optimal outcomes. As one of the country’s largest providers of ABA therapy, we believe we have the responsibility to lead this effort, and when findings are made available, we will share them with other providers. We believe the best quality care should be made accessible to every family with a child with ASD regardless of whether they are a Centria client or not. This announcement was welcome for many families that are dealing with autism and who hope for a better future for their loved ones. Many media outlets reported on the announcement. Unfortunately, the Free Press was not one of those.
We understand why the Free Press would want to cover the March incident. We agree that it’s relevant to the people in our community. It’s also why we shared the news of it ourselves on our company blog. Sensationalizing the incident in order to stoke fear and misunderstanding in the community is disheartening. Fortunately, we have had numerous families we serve reach out since this article to assure us that they appreciate the quality of care we provide and demonstrated their support of Centria.
As any healthcare administrator will tell you, disputes over billing and documentation are extremely common with managed care, and payers like Medicaid, who regularly audit providers like Centria to assure compliance with best practices. Centria has been the subject of dozens of routine audits by our community mental health partners with no patterns of fault identified.
Our commitment to our mission and the people we serve has only been strengthened. We have over 3,500 employees in eight states who are aligned behind working as hard and as smart as we can to provide the best care in the best ways possible. We will make every effort to put all of the measures in place we can to protect our kids, support best practices in billing and bring all parties together to improve care. The families we serve have our commitment and we will never waver.