By Peter H. Milliken
The Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities has voted to make the first transfer of one of its adult services facilities to another organization under a federal mandate; and more such transfers of facilities and functions will follow.
The board voted this month to cease its provision of adult workshop services at its Meshel Workshop on Marwood Circle and to begin discussions to transfer provision of those services to the nonprofit MASCO Inc., with a projected effective date of Sept. 1, 2018.
The board’s strategy is to make the transfers to other organizations gradually, and with plenty of advance notice, to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved, said William Whitacre, MCBDD superintendent.
To more fully inform people affected by the changes, the board will conduct two-hour meetings beginning at 12:30 and 5 p.m. Thursday at the Meshel Workshop.
The board’s announcement of those meetings said the board’s Centre at Javit Court, which provides activities and therapies to adult clients, likely would undergo its transfer to another organization six to nine months after Meshel’s transition occurs.
Due to declining enrollment, the notice said the board’s Bev Road workshop may be consolidated with the Javit Court and Meshel facilities.
“There is a really good chance that Bev Road may close,” Whitacre said during last Monday’s meeting.
“Bev Road is a very big building that, at one time, had over 150 people in it, that now has under 80,” he added.
The DD board’s facilities have been losing enrollment to other service providers in recent years, he explained.
The MASCO (Mahoning Adult Services Co.) name has been associated for decades with the Bev and Meshel workshops, where MASCO is the employer of the workshop clients, but the county employs the program staff.
As of Sept. 1, 2018, MASCO will continue to employ the Meshel clients, but it also will become the employer of that workshop’s program staff and the service provider of record there, Whitacre explained.
MASCO is interested in assuming all Mahoning County DD board adult services, including transportation, said Phil Miller, MASCO’s chief executive officer.
Current DD board employees will be interviewed for jobs under MASCO Inc. before others, he said.
“We absolutely want experienced people that have relationships with the people we serve,” he said.
“I can’t say we’ll hire them all across the board, but I will say that we definitely will hire some” current DD board staff members, Miller added.
Last Monday’s resolution said the board is transferring Meshel because of mandates from the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Ohio Department of Disabilities.
Regulations from the federal agency say the board generally will be barred from providing both case management and direct services to adult clients by 2024 because regulators view the dual role as a conflict of interest.
“The board initially was against this [transition]. We are now moving forward based upon the fact that the federal government’s told us we have to move forward,” said Peter Noll, board vice president.
“This is not up for debate any longer, so we are moving forward and trying to minimize the impact” on clients and employees, he added.
After the transition to other service providers is complete in 2024, the board will continue to fund the services, regardless of who provides them or where they are provided; and the board will continue to perform the service coordination and monitoring functions, known as case management.
Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she believes the DD board system and the services the board delivers have functioned well.
“As a case manager and a service provider, you know that client,” she said.
“The program’s been run wonderfully,” said Jodi Kale, a DD board member, adding that she’s disappointed with the federal mandate.
“My son is very anxious about the transition. He’s worried about the people that he’s learned to work with every day” at the Meshel Workshop and whether they’ll remain with the program, Kale said.
“They [the program clients] are used to their routine. They’re used to their caregivers. With this transition comes a lot of change,” Kale said.
“This is going to be as gradual a transition, as seamless as possible, so we can make it easier for the clients and for their families,” Kale said.
The DD board’s Leonard Kirtz School is not affected by the federal mandate.