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Rowan Homes asks judge to stop takeover of group homes

By Steve Huffman

Salisbury Post

A request for a temporary injunction was filed Friday to halt Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare’s move to award a contract for six group homes to a provider other than Rowan Homes.

The complaint was filed by Salisbury attorney Richard “Dick” Huffman. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before District Court Judge William “Bill” Kluttz.

“If nothing else, we’re hoping this will at least slow the train,” said Jay Laurens, Rowan Homes’ executive director. “We’re really hoping it reverses the direction.”

Named as plaintiffs in the complaint are 28 adults served by Rowan Homes. Those individuals suffer varying developmental disabilities.

Earlier this month, Piedmont Behavioral’s board of directors awarded a contract for the six group homes’ management to Cabarrus Group Homes Inc. The contract is scheduled to take effect Thursday.

Laurens said that if the contract between Piedmont Behavioral and Rowan Homes is severed, it will essentially be the deathblow of Rowan Homes. He said that after serving the community for 31 years, that’s something that officials with the nonprofit Rowan Homes don’t want.

“We hope to continue service another 31 years,” Laurens said.

Huffman was hired recently to represent Rowan Homes. He said the intent of the injunction is to allow the court to maintain status quo, meaning Rowan Homes would continue operating the group homes until the case can go to trial.

Huffman said that if the injunction isn’t granted, Rowan Homes will suffer significant harm. He said the organization is seeking a delay in the matter until a trial can be held and a decision reached

“Obviously there’s not time for a full trial between now and Feb. 1,” Huffman said.

He compared the complaint to one that might be filed if a house was about to be levied and a party contested its destruction.

“It’s sort of hard to rectify after the house is gone,” Huffman said.

In a like sense, he said, if Rowan Homes loses its contract with Piedmont Behavioral, the group will cease to exist.

Piedmont Behavioral and Rowan Homes have been in an ongoing dispute about money for years, resulting in the Rowan Homes board’s refusal to sign its contract for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Officials with Rowan Homes said the organizations agreed in early January to a $41.05 per-resident, per-day rate paid to other group homes. Rowan Homes officials said that the following evening, however, they were informed that Piedmont Behavioral had decided on a different provider.

Cabarrus Group Homes has been incorporated since 1975 and has been managing four group homes serving 21 residents with developmental disabilities in Cabarrus.

In public meetings regarding the prospect of Piedmont Behavioral severing ties with Rowan Homes, group home residents and members of their families have spoken out overwhelmingly in favor of continued service with Rowan Homes.

According to the request for the temporary injunction, 20 of Rowan Homes’ 33 residents need services such as one-to-one staffing from four to eight hours per day to meet extensive behavioral and medical needs.

“Plaintiff prays the court grant a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction that would restrain (Piedmont Behavioral) from terminating its contract with (Rowan Homes) and contracting with another party pending a full hearing on the merits of this matter,” the complaint filed by Huffman concludes.

Staff writer Kathy Chaffin contributed to this story. Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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