State: Open Arms employees lack proper credentials - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State: Open Arms employees lack proper credentials

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February 21, 2006

Albany - An investigation into Open Arms by the Georgia Department of Human Resources found some of the employees were not properly credentialed. That's why the state ended its contract with Open Arms, took the agency off its provider list, and isn't paying them for assessment services anymore.

The news is shocking to Open Arms's attorney, W. T. Gamble. He says DHR investigators told him they found no problems at the agency.

A state investigation into Open Arms employees lead the state to end its contract to refer child and their families to the Albany agency for assessment.

"Because certain individuals didn't have the proper credentials, the decision was made not to renew the contract with Open Arms to conduct these child and family assessments," said Department of Human Resource spokesman Ari Young.

Young wouldn't say which employees lack the proper credentials. He did said the only way for Open Arms to possibly get back the state contract and state money is to remedy the credential problems and reapply.

"That's information I had not heard until you told me that," said Open Arms Attorney W. T. Gamble, III.

Open Arms Attorney W. T Gamble was shocked to hear the results of the probe, saying investigators told him they found no problems during not one, but two, inquiries into Open Arms.

"It's my understanding that the second investigation also found no basis of those allegations," said Gamble.

Gamble says the state ending the contract is bad businesses.

"I think it's a poor way of handling it," said Gamble. "I disagree with it. But again, that doesn't totally shock me. When they answered the lawsuit, their position was we can do whatever we wanted to as to granting the contract, canceling the contract, and approving one."

Since August when Open Arms lost that contract and was taken off the state's list of approved providers, the agency has lost about $30,000 a month in state money. And children are being referred to other agencies for certain assessment services, from medical testing to counseling.

"There's no question that it's hurting the children who need assistance the most," said Gamble.

But Young says the kids are still getting the help they need.

"We have several providers in the Albany area and around the state who are capable of providing these assessments. This is not a situation where there are shortage of providers to conduct assessments," said Young.

Children are still losing out because of this controversy because Open Arms is having to cut programs that help them in their darkest days.

Open Arms is suing the state Department of Human Resources and demanding all records of the investigation. The case is set to go before the court in October.

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