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Petition of Guillemette

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

December 7, 2018

PETITION OF KYLE GUILLEMETTE (New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services)

          Argued: October 24, 2018

         Department of Health and Human Services

          Disability Rights Center-NH, of Concord (James Ziegra on the brief and orally), for the petitioner.

          Shaheen & Gordon, P.A., of Concord (Karyn P. Forbes and Alexander W. Campbell on the brief, and Ms. Forbes orally), for Monadnock Worksource.

          John D. MacIntosh, P.C., of Concord (John D. MacIntosh on the memorandum of law), for Monadnock Developmental Services.

          Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Laura E. B. Lombardi, senior assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Developmental Services.

          HICKS, J.

         In this petition for a writ of certiorari, see Sup. Ct. R. 11, the petitioner, Kyle Guillemette, challenges the determination by the Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU) of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that the notice requirements set forth in RSA 171-A:8, III (2014) and New Hampshire Administrative Rules, He-M 310.07 did not apply when Monadnock Worksource (Worksource) notified Monadnock Developmental Services (MDS) of its intent to discontinue providing services to the petitioner because that act did not constitute a "termination" of services within the meaning of the applicable rules. Because we conclude that the AAU's ruling is not erroneous, we affirm.

         I. Facts

         The AAU found, or the certified record supports, the following relevant facts. The petitioner receives developmental disability services funded by the developmental disability Medicaid waiver program. MDS is the "area agency," which coordinates and develops the petitioner's individual service plan. See RSA 171-A:2, I-b (2014) (defining an "area agency" as a "nonprofit corporation . . . established by rules adopted by the commissioner [of DHHS] to provide services to developmentally disabled persons"); see also Petition of Sawyer, 170 N.H. 197, 199 (2017) (describing area agencies). Worksource is a "provider agency." N.H. Admin. R., He-M 310.02(v) (defining "provider agency").

         Worksource provides services to disabled individuals pursuant to a "Master Agreement" with MDS. Worksource began providing day services to the petitioner in August 2012. There is no indication in the record that Worksource provided any other services to the petitioner. On March 31, 2017, Worksource notified MDS, in writing, that Worksource was terminating services to the petitioner "as of midnight on April 30." The letter to MDS stated that "[t]he Board of Directors and administration of . . . Worksource feel this action is in the best interest of [the petitioner] and of [Worksource]." The petitioner's mother, who serves as his guardian, was informed by MDS of Worksource's decision on April 3.

         On April 12, the petitioner's mother wrote to Worksource, asking it to reconsider its decision to terminate services. In an April 18 letter, Worksource's executive director declined that request, stating: "As you, the guardian, have repeatedly and recently expressed such deep dissatisfaction with our services to your son, the Board and I feel that you and [the petitioner] would be better served by another agency . . . ." Thereafter, the petitioner filed a complaint with the Office of Client and Legal Services alleging that his services had been terminated improperly and requesting that they remain in place pending the outcome of the investigation of his complaint. See RSA 171-A:19 (2014) (establishing the client and legal services office); see also N.H. Admin. R., He-M 310.07(e) (providing that services must remain in place while a client's appeal of a provider agency's termination of services is pending). The petitioner simultaneously appealed Worksource's decision to the AAU.

         The Office of Client and Legal Services investigator determined that Worksource was required to follow the applicable rules when terminating services to a client, and that Worksource had failed to comply with them. In his written report, the investigator stated that the executive director of Worksource "acknowledged that . . . [Worksource] mistakenly did not follow the termination process under [the rules] . . ., but issued a letter to MDS indicating that [it was] terminating [the petitioner's] day services. She explained that the contract with MDS is what [Worksource] used as the authority for terminating services." The investigator reasoned that because "Worksource, as a provider agency of MDS, has to follow the [rules] to terminate services, and admittedly did not, the complaint is substantiated." Worksource declined to accept the investigator's determination and asked that the matter be referred to the Bureau of Developmental Services (Bureau) for review. The Bureau overturned the investigator's determination.

         The petitioner appealed the Bureau's decision to the AAU. His appeal of the Bureau's decision was consolidated with his earlier appeal of Worksource's decision. In ruling in favor of Worksource, the AAU assumed without deciding that, "as a provider agency[, ] Worksource [is] bound by the requirements set forth" in the applicable rules. However, the AAU determined that those requirements did not apply because Worksource did not "terminate" services to the petitioner within the meaning of the applicable rules. The AAU denied the petitioner's subsequent motion for reconsideration, and this petition for a writ of certiorari followed.

         II. ...


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