Restore Care continues battle against State Department of Mental Health

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala (WHNT)-- The battle between the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Restore Care, Inc. continues.

The conflict is escalating legally after the group home provider was decertified this week. The state's concerns are the safety and welfare of more than 30 residents.

Restore Care is now asking the court to dismiss a temporary restraining order filed against them. This, as the state Department of Mental Health wants to remove all people from their care, citing risks that could cause "irreparable harm."

A hearing is set for Monday. Restore Care is asking for dismissal because they say removing patients would be harmful to consumers and Restore Care as a business. They also want time to handle an appeal administratively with the ADMH before action is taken. Earlier they had filed for a continuance but then withdrew that motion.

The state fired back, opposing Restore Care's initial request for more time because they believe there's a sense of urgency to act quickly, citing an emergency.

Advocates talked with WHNT News 19 about the decertification process, saying it's rare to see it happen like this.

"This is such an an unusual step for the state department to take," said James Tucker, Director of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP.) "Especially with a large provider like this."

He said the state doesn't usually make moves like immediate decertification unless there's a serious issue. He mentioned abuse, neglect, and medical issues as examples of something that would merit such a move.

"I would expect [the state] has credible evidence and they've reached some reasonable conclusions about that," he said.

ADAP is federally-funded and independent of the state and providers. He says it's their mission to provide legal services and protect the rights of the disabled.

Tucker says they're looking at this situation between Restore Care and the state to make sure consumers are being treated well by both sides as things move forward.

"We intend to follow every affected person," he said, and they plan to do so regardless of whether or not residents are ultimately removed from the Restore Care group homes.

Many people have contacted WHNT News 19 vouching for Restore Care. They tell us they're worried about where those residents could be moved, and how they would respond to the change. Tucker says that's something his agency will be watching, if it happens. He says if they stay at Restore Care, his agency will send people to visit there. If they're removed, his agency will visit the new locations.

His message to guardians: "[Guardians] should be able to exercise some choice about where their loved one is moved," he said. "We do not want individuals to be placed at significant distance away from their friends and family." He said that's something his agency will also be looking out for.

Residents and guardians are still waiting for more information about what the state's specific allegations are against Restore Care. WHNT is also looking to find out more about that.

Meanwhile, Restore Care leaders maintain they would not do anything to harm their patients and they're going to fight the decertification the best they can.