(a) The Department shall, in accordance with Chapter 5 of Title 2, promulgate rules that:
(1) Require providers to adopt a policy and procedure regarding the timely review and resolution of grievances brought to the provider by its consumers. All grievances resolved in this manner shall be reduced to writing and reported to the Department in a manner established by the Department; and
(2) Establish a process for the resolution of grievances, which shall include, at a minimum:
(A) The opportunity for any person to file a grievance with the Department regarding mental health services or mental health supports or violations of or limitations on consumer rights or protections provided by this chapter or other applicable law. Unless a grievance involves an allegation of abuse or neglect of a consumer, a grievance filed by a third party may be reviewed only if the consumer so consents;
(B) Assistance for any consumer who needs help in filing his or her grievance, orally or in writing;
(C) The right of all consumers to be represented throughout the grievance process;
(D) Definite time frames for each stage of the grievance resolution process, including expedited review for any grievance alleging abuse or neglect;
(E) A requirement that mental health services and mental health supports continue without limitation, reduction, or termination pending the resolution of a grievance regarding those services or supports;
(F) Requirements for education and assistance to consumers, provider staff, and third parties about consumer rights and the grievance resolution system; and
(G) Prohibitions on retaliatory actions such as reprisal, restraint, interference, coercion, or discrimination by the Department or other providers against persons who file grievances.
(b)(1) Any grievance filed with the Department shall receive a prompt and impartial review through the Director or the Director’s designee, who shall refer the grievance to an external reviewer in accordance with rules established by the Department.
(2) The external reviewer shall conduct a simple and immediate examination of the grievance as follows:
(A) The external reviewer shall facilitate informal resolution of the grievance; or
(B) If such informal resolution is not possible, the external reviewer shall make a determination either sustaining or denying the grievance, which shall include recommendations for remedying the grievance, as appropriate.
(3) The external reviewer shall conduct his or her examination of the grievance in accordance with rules established by the Department, and shall document the outcome of the external review process through a written report submitted to the Director and the parties.
(4) Any party who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the external review process may request a fair hearing, which shall meet the requirements of a contested case proceeding under § 2-509.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or limit the rights, procedures, and remedies available under federal or local laws protecting the rights of adults or children or youth with mental disabilities. If an aggrieved party files suit in a court of law in pursuit of such otherwise available remedies, action on any related grievance filed by the aggrieved party with the Department shall be stayed pending a final decision by the court.
For temporary (90 day) addition of section, see § 212 of Mental Health Service Delivery Reform Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-144, October 23, 2001, 48 DCR 9947).