HUDSON — Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration says it is not kicking clients out the Angelus group homes in Hudson.
"There is no interruption in services,'' Mallory McManus, communications director for the agency, said in a statement emailed to the Tampa Bay Times.
The statement came in response to a Times story that the state, in implementing new Medicaid rules, placed the Angelus on a list of 55 groups homes, assisted living facilities and adult training or day care centers that had isolated clients from the broader community. That is contrary to a 2014 rule, part of the federal Affordable Care Act, intended to ensure that the disabled and elderly have full access to community living.
McManus' statement said the Agency for Health Care Administration, also known as AHCA, "is committed to working closely with all facilities as the state works to implement the federally mandated statewide transition plan by the federally set March 2019 deadline. We are not seeking to transition recipients including those at Angelus from any setting that has been identified as non-compliant with, or presumptively institutional, pursuant to the federal … rule at this time. We will continue to work with Angelus throughout this process."
It brought some relief to the Angelus.
"That's the good news we've been hearing from them,'' Angelus CEO Joe Neri said Thursday when told of the AHCA comments. "I'm glad we brought awareness to them. I want them to be aware of what we are.''
The Angelus serves 32 profoundly disabled clients in five group homes and a training center on 18 acres in Hudson. The agency began in St. Petersburg in 1979 and moved six years later to its campus in northwest Pasco.
The close proximity of the groups homes, the on-site training center and a security gate on the property brought the state notification that the Angelus acted as an institution, separating its clients from the community at large.
The state designation, part of an August draft report on the transition to the new federal rules, sparked fears that clients would be removed from the Angelus. The nearly three-year compliance window helped deflate some of the worries.
"We're going to survive. The Angelus will survive,'' said Neri. "But people have lived here 35 years and then they could be force to move? That would be heartbreaking for anybody.''