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investigating allegations

The Office of Investigations* (OI) within the Office of Program Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), conducts thorough, independent, objective and timely civil investigations of unusual incidents and allegations involving individuals served by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and by its community partners.

As part of its investigative and quality assurance activities, OI issues individual case findings and cites systemic concerns identified during the investigative process to help ensure the continued health, safety and well-being of all individuals served.

OI is comprised of a Director, three (3) Regional Chiefs, (10) Regional Supervisors, forty (40) Investigators and two (2) Support Staff.

OI conducts approximately 1,200 investigations annually, in accordance with identified time frames.

 

OI’s Vision
  • The health, safety and well-being of individuals served is our priority;
  • Recognized best practices are incorporated into all aspects of the investigative process;
  • Investigative findings are fact-based, fair and balanced and meet the needs of our internal and external stakeholders;
  • The investigative process is rooted in integrity, transparency and accountability;
  • We are flexible and adaptable to meet needs and changing environments;
  • We strive for mutually open, respectful communication and cooperation to promote common understanding;
  • We inspire excellence through teamwork and training;
  • We strive to continually improve the quality of our processes through self-review, data and analysis.
Guiding State Statutes

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:1-12.1, OI is charged by the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services with the responsibility to conduct investigations involving incidents and allegations of individuals served by DHS.

Additionally,

N.J.S.A. 30: 6D - 76 et seq. stipulates: “The commissioner shall adopt rules and regulations necessary to provide for an investigation of a reported incident and subsequent substantiation or non-substantiation of an allegation of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an individual with a developmental disability by a caregiver, by maintaining an Office of Investigations to investigate serious unusual incidents as defined by applicable rules and regulations, in facilities or community programs licensed, contracted or regulated by the Department.”

N.J.S.A. 30:6D-17 stipulates: “The Department shall ensure that every developmentally disabled person in a community residential facility receives adequate medical and dental care, a nutritionally adequate diet, a full daily program of structured activities, and those other services which are necessary to maximize the developmental potential of the developmentally disabled person in a manner least restrictive of personal liberty. Every developmentally disabled person shall have adequate protection from abuse and a wholesome environment in which to live.”

Investigations

OI conducts civil investigations related to serious allegations/incidents of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and other serious incidents involving individuals served in DHS facility and community settings. Community settings include programs licensed, contracted, funded and/or regulated by DHS divisions, including the Divisions of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health and Addiction Services.

OI investigative findings identify that an allegation or incident is “substantiated;” meaning that the incident or allegation did occur, or “unsubstantiated;” meaning that the incident or allegation did not occur.

In conducting a civil investigation, OI uses a “preponderance of evidence” standard to determine whether an allegation or incident is substantiated or not substantiated. “Preponderance of the evidence” means that based on evidence and information gathered through the investigation, an allegation or incident is more likely true than not. A preponderance of evidence is attained when 51 percent of the evidence supports a substantiated finding.

As needed, OI routinely collaborates with law enforcement when there is suspicion or evidence of criminal activity or in serious cases involving abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. This ongoing partnership frequently results in criminal convictions of identified perpetrators and further helps to ensure the health, safety and well-being of individuals receiving services.

Serious cases involving caregivers substantiated for acts of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation are subsequently referred by OI for DHS consideration to place the perpetrator’s name on the DHS Central Registry of Offenders against Individuals with a Developmental Disability. Placement of the perpetrator’s name on the Central Registry ensures an added level of protection to individuals served as he/she is prohibited from working with individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability for a minimum of five years.

OI staff also perform quality assurance tasks in reviewing and analyzing clinical and social service records and through the investigative process. Through this review, individual and systemic issues and concerns may be identified. This important information is subsequently communicated to appropriate internal or external stakeholders and documented to further promote the health, safety and well-being of individuals served.

OI investigation findings are routinely forwarded to key DHS and DHS division entities for appropriate action and needed follow-up. OI investigation data is also a critical component of the DHS Risk Management System. OI investigation data is used to inform service providers and division staff and assists in developing prevention strategies and policies to further ensure individuals served are safe and protected.

*Effective May 27, 2014, the DHS Special Response Unit and the Office of Investigations merged to become the DHS Office of Investigations.

 

 
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