JCBDD Seeks Seamless Transition towards Privatization
STEUBENVILLE-A new day is dawning for the Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities as March 1 marks the official transition to privatized adult services, and officials hope the move is a seamless one.
Superintendent Michael Zinno informed board members during the Feb. 21 meeting that changes were coming following several years of preparation. The federally mandated switch means that special needs adults will have more privatized service providers such as PALS and Paramount, and the board took another step forward by passing a resolution for PALS that Thursday.
“We’re one week away from being privatized. March 1 is the first day for PALS to begin,” he said. “This [transition] has been going on for three years.”
PALS, which stands for “physical activity and life skills,” is a Chrysalis Health company based in Gahanna, Ohio, which will begin supporting dozens of adult individuals long under the board’s umbrella. PALS was formed by Mingo Junction native Aaron Bracone in 2012 and has locations in Heath and Columbus, while it offers an array of person-centered programs from residential services and community respite programs to vocational training and employment services. The goal is to help special needs adults become acclimated with mainstream society and all of the opportunities it brings.
Zinno noted that the switch also meant a reduction in force of 14 employees, but one licensed practicing nurse and 12 adult service workers will be hired by PALS while the program coordinator has accepted a similar position in Carroll County. He said PALS was also looking to hire more employees for the site and, for now, will work out of the Jeffco Training Center on Cherry Avenue in Steubenville.
Amid board members’ questions about feedback on PALS, Zinno said he had gotten many positive comments from other superintendents and counties that utilize the program. Following more discussion, the board approved resolutions to enter into the agreement with PALS for adult day services. The pact also includes a memorandum of understanding for PALS to use the training center as its location through Dec. 31, 2019, or until it secures a new site. In addition, the board agreed to implement the RIFs and abolish the 14 positions through its own program.
Another transition includes the reduction of residents at the Shaffer Plaza Apartments, which will continue to provide more intensive care in a nursing home-type setting. At one time, 33 special needs individuals lived at the complex but many have been living more independently in the community. Zinno updated the board on construction of a fourth local home, which will include three Shaffer residents. Three homes were previously purchased and the new house is being built at 121 Orchard St. in Wintersville. It could be completed in late spring, while the new occupants could move in around May 1. To that end, the board made the final $100,000 payment to the East Ohio Housing Corporation, a non-profit organization which owns the residence. The work was financed using a mixture of JCBDD funds and part of a grant the board received last year from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DoDD). Officials received up to $598,000 from the Community Capital Assistance Program, which provides financing to county boards and non-profit organizations for the purchase, construction and/or community housing for persons with special needs. The DoDD’s Capital Housing Office is responsible for the program and three grants for totaling $390,000 were used to acquire homes with another $318,000 to help construct fully accessible lodging to better serve consumers. Three additional houses were purchased in Wintersville, Richmond and Mingo Junction with the grant and all of the structures are owned by the EOHC.
Meanwhile, Zinno recommended that the board hire a third full-time LPN to replace two part-time posts at Shaffer and ensure a constant presence for medical care at all three buildings. It was ultimately approved by the board.
With the privatization underway, JCBDD will refocus its efforts on early intervention and special needs children, and Zinno sought to add another employee to help oversee a growing number of clients.
“I’m really excited with the work [coordinator Neysa Rogers] has done with services for E.I.,” he commented. “Part of our vision is as we get out of adult services, we’re redirecting our assets and resources into early intervention. Due to an increase in needs, we want to hire an E.I. specialist.”
Rogers said employees were providing some in-home aid and the number of clients spiked to 82 as of January and was still growing. She added that the candidate for the new post has vast experience with assessments and home visits and was very familiar with the role.
Additionally, officials approved a recommendation to revamp the preschool program. Zinno said other local school districts were studied and a survey was done to obtain input from the community, and leaders found it feasible to maintain the current unit of eight developmentally disabled children and up to eight typical children onsite with an additional 16 special needs kids. Plans will be finalized over the next few months and more help will be sought for a preschool teacher and part-time and full-time aides. The board ultimately approved the recommendation.
“The School of Bright Promise will serve up to 24 handicapped preschool children,” Zinno said, adding that it was a good start to meet the needs of that age group.
In other matters:
–The board passed a resolution to obtain bids for a new school bus. Zinno said a 49-seat, handicapped accessible vehicle would put the bus fleet back into a comfortable position and act as backup should another bus be out of service;
–Board member William Kerr recommended giving a plaque to Dick Allen, who left the board after six years of service;
–Zinno said events were being set as part of DD Awareness Month in March. They included performing community service or visiting schools with a message to “Spread the Word to End the Word” and eliminate the “R” word from everyday language.