State report: United Arc failed to manage clients’ health conditions, staff training

  • The United Arc on Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2021 5:43:21 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Before being ordered to surrender its contracts, The United Arc was plagued by a lack of oversight in managing individuals’ health conditions, staff training and internal affairs, according to a state Department of Developmental Services Provider Report obtained by the Greenfield Recorder.

In July, the Department of Developmental Services ordered the surrender of The United Arc’s Residential and Shared-Living contracts at a Sept. 20 deadline. ServiceNet will take over the contracts.

The United Arc’s Individual Home Supports Program contract may also be surrendered, but the Department of Developmental Services will conduct another review at the deadline before deciding whether the organization may retain the contract. The surrender order came after the department’s July 8 Office of Quality Enhancement report stating the organization met only 51% of licensure indicators, with five critical indicators missed.

The United Arc’s board of directors also voted to remove Lynne Bielecki as executive director.

Bielecki could not be reached for comment.

Bruce Biagi, president of the board of directors, said in an email that the nonprofit is working to fulfill its “corrective action plan” to retain its Individual Home Supports program, but did not comment on questions about the various shortcomings identified by the state.

“There isn’t much for me to say,” Biagi wrote in an email. “The results of that evaluation will determine whether or not The United Arc will be allowed to apply for a new license.”

The United Arc, founded in 1951 by Rita Marguerite Canedy and incorporated in 1960, serves clients in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties through its offices in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Holyoke and Athol.

According to the organization’s website, Canedy had two sons with developmental disabilities and the only option at that time was to institutionalize them. Canedy wrote a letter to the Greenfield Recorder and found she was not the only one in that situation, which led to the founding of The United Arc as a community-based support group.

The Recorder filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the state Department of Developmental Services for The United Arc’s performance evaluation.


The report found that The United Arc failed to manage individuals’ medical conditions, manage records and document appropriate follow-up appointments, if those appointments were scheduled at all.

In one example, a person was seen for a yeast infection on May 4 and their primary care physician prescribed medication for the condition. After the appointment, “there was no indication that the order was ever filled or that the medication was ever administered, and no follow-up actions were ever identified or taken,” according to the report.

This was one of several individuals whose follow-up appointments, if there were any, were undocumented.

The report found staff failed to develop management protocols for multiple clients with conditions including Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or other dietary restrictions, among others.

One individual, who was diagnosed with a redacted condition, had no protocols in place to “guide staff in actions in managing this medical condition, including emergency response when necessary.” The individual, who also suffers from sleep apnea, had a broken CPAP machine and there was “no written protocol for his allergy to latex and emergency administration of an EpiPen.”

Another individual who uses a wheelchair did not have an accessible stovetop, sink and countertops for basic routines and activities, according to the report.

Multiple individuals were overdue for physical or dental exams, with several not having one within a 15-month period.

Staff training

While the homes of individuals The United Arc served were “found in good repair,” the organization’s staff were found to lack training related to serving and caring for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Staff also were not “trained in signs and symptoms of illness.”

“For seven individuals, training was not provided to staff, including relief staff,” the report states, “in the unique support needs of individuals, including training in autism, fragile x syndrome, celiac disease and spina bifida, among others.”

Staff were not trained in the “unique support” needs of redacted medical conditions for multiple clients, the report continues. They were also found to be providing insufficient support in helping individuals in the “areas of intimacy, sexuality and companionship.”

Furthermore, the organization “did not track the status of required trainings for staff and care providers.”

Staff also were not following proper protocol for dealing with individuals with behavioral conditions, according to the report.

A form used to track a resident’s good behavior included a space to note if she “acted like an adult between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.,” which the report states “did not promote respect and dignity.” Another individual’s backpack was regularly searched without his consent and the searches were not outlined in a written plan reviewed by the Human Rights Committee.

Staff qualification issues went beyond training as well. The report states The United Arc did “not incorporate steps to assure that candidates met minimum job requirements” when it came to hiring new employees.

Internal affairs

The report also found internal processes and forms were not handled properly within The United Arc.

The United Arc’s Human Rights Committee, which was a joint committee with LifePath Inc., “lacked regular attendance of both legal and medical representatives” over the past two years and did not fulfill its responsibilities for reviewing complaints and investigations, the report states.

The organization failed to collect information about “the quality of services across service types and across areas of support to individuals.”

Several individuals did not have a signed lease on record; some financial records did not contain merchant receipts. Long-range and strategic planning was ignored as well, according to the report.

“The United Arc’s three-year strategic plan concluded on June 30, 2020, and the agency could not demonstrate progress made toward achieving its strategic goals,” the report states. “Progress was not documented and overall achievement and success of its strategic plan could not be determined.”

While the organization will surrender its Residential and Shared-Living program contracts, it will continue operating its Family and Youth Services.

The public report, which lacks specific details and incidents mentioned above, can be viewed on the Department of Developmental Services’ website at


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