United Arc contracts shift to ServiceNet in Northampton

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

Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2021 11:20:36 AM

TURNERS FALLS — The state Department of Developmental Services has ordered The United Arc’s Residential and Shared-Living program contracts be surrendered to ServiceNet on Sept. 20, rather than the original choice of Pathlight.

The United Arc, which was founded in 1951 and serves those in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties through its offices in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Holyoke and Athol, will surrender its contracts to ServiceNet, a Northampton-based mental health and human services organization.

The decision came after Pathlight, a Springfield-based developmental disability support organization, notified the DDS July 28 that it did not have the capacity to absorb The United Arc’s contracts.

Bruce Biagi, president of The United Arc’s board of directors, said the DDS made the final decision Aug. 2 to shift the contracts’ destination. The original deadline remains intact.

“We’re all working at the present time against that Sept. 20 deadline, The United Arc, DDS and now ServiceNet,” Biagi said in a Zoom interview. “It’s a multi-armed effort by everyone involved.”

The surrender of the contracts comes after a poor performance on an Office of Quality Enhancement review. The organization’s Individual Home Supports Program contract may also be surrendered, but the DSS will conduct another review at the Sept. 20 deadline before deciding if The United Arc may retain the contract.

Following the poor performance review, the United Arc’s board of directors voted to remove Executive Director Lynne Bielecki.

According to The United Arc’s website, the organization’s Residential Program is a 24-hour support system that supplies developmentally or intellectually disabled individuals with their own room in a group home. Its Shared-Living Program, which is described as an alternative to the Residential Program, provides an opportunity for community members to take one of The United Arc’s clients in and make them a part of their family. The Individual Home Supports Program helps people who live independently, while the other two programs provide in-home care.

Biagi said The United Arc has not received any official feedback on the steps it is taking to retain the Individual Home Supports Program.

In a later email, Biagi said The United Arc’s Residential Program serves 14 individuals, the Shared-Living Program serves five individuals and the Individual Home Supports Program serves 44 people. The United Arc also will retain its contracts for Support Services and Family and Youth Services, which serves 500 people.

Biagi wrote in the email that even if the Individual Home Supports Program is surrendered, The United Arc can carry on as a smaller organization based on its Family and Youth Services.

“The services that are included under children and families are extensive, very successful and have a good potential for growth,” Biagi wrote.

Biagi said a lot of details are being pieced together for the transition and ServiceNet will absorb all assets involved with the Residential and Shared-Living contracts.

“It’s everything,” Biagi said. “Assets in terms of buildings, cars, and, of course, the individuals we serve.”

He said ServiceNet is prepared for the task ahead and everyone involved in this process is prioritizing the individuals they serve.

“ServiceNet seems very efficient. … They seem much better able to recognize the extent of the job ahead and absorb it,” Biagi said. “For the individuals we serve, we still have the responsibility for their health and safety and I think that’s everyone’s desire — DDS, ServiceNet and The United Arc.”

DDS Ombudsman Chris Klaskin said the driving force of the selection of both Pathlight and ServiceNet was their strength as providers and their “local presence.”

“DDS focused on trying to keep a provider with a presence in the Greenfield, Deerfield area,” Klaskin said. “They have pretty strong service records with us and they’re fairly large agencies potentially with capacity.”

Marci Morris, ServiceNet’s head of operations for developmental and brain injury services, said the organization is “happy to help” the DDS and staff are “not anticipating” any strain on current programs or services. She added ServiceNet is hiring as many United Arc employees as it can, which will actually bolster its services.

“It can help enhance services we already support, especially in Franklin County,” Morris said. “We want to hire as many employees as we can. … It’s a good way to strengthen services.”


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