Staff to feel the pinch of changes

Fairhaven clients won’t see difference

WARREN — People who work in the sheltered workshops operating under the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities won’t see many changes once the non-profit transitions into a certified provider, but the county employees who supervise and do other work will, the board’s director said Wednesday.

Because the employees work for the county under the board, their pay has been supplemented, said Ed Stark, executive director of the board at a Wednesday meeting of the Trumbull County commissioners.

“The difference between the non-profit and the county board is we can supplement what we receive from Medicaid to pay for services. So our costs are actually higher than what we receive from the Medicaid waiver rate,” Stark said.

But when the non-profit finishes becoming certified, and take over the workshops, the employees’ pay won’t be supplemented anymore, Stark said.

“The non-profit has to survive within the rate. They can’t supplement… and I can’t supplement the Medicaid rate to the non-profit. They have to work within that rate. So they will not be able to pay employees what the county board will be able to,” Stark said.

The change won’t affect people with developmental disabilities that work in the sheltered workshops, Stark said.

“The individuals who are receiving services will remain there and will get the same rate of pay and do the same jobs they are currently working on,” Stark said.

Though the county employees will be be invited to stay on, there is a chance there will be new faces in the workshops, Stark said.

George Paros, Fairhaven Industries chief executive officer, said details like employee pay have not been finalized.

The non-profit is in the final stages of getting certified. After certification, the non-profit will start providing services that take less staff and money to operate while clients transition over from the board, Paros said.

Before the workshops transition, Fairhaven Industries needs to work out a lease agreement for the county buildings the workshops are hosted in, so the people with developmental disabilities don’t have too many changes, Paros said.

Stark can sublet the buildings to Paros without permission from the commissioners, but he said he wants to get their blessing for the plan.

Paros said nothing is for sure, but one ideal solution is if the board could lease the buildings to the non-profit on a sliding scale. It takes time to line up the clients and start getting Medicaid reimbursements, so the non-profit might pay cheap rent the first year, more the the next year, and eventually arrive at a fair market price, Paros said.

There are providers in the area offering sheltered workshops, recreational and social programs, and the board is working to attract more to the area, Stark said. Clients can also be connected to work in the community.

Commissioner Frank Fuda said keeping up the quality of the Fairhaven programs is important to everyone in the community who has recognized its success.

As the changes occur, the focus should be on the clients, and maintaining the high quality of service the board has provided for them and their families in the past, Fuda said.

“It is all about the clients, as far as we are concerned. We don’t care which company does it, how much money they make, we’re concerned about the clients,” Fuda said.

The changes are the result of federal and state mandates requiring boards that pay for and provide services to clients to stop by 2024 to eliminate a conflict of interest. The board will continue to pay other providers for the services people with Medicaid waivers use in the community. The Fairhaven School is not affected by the changes.