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home : local news : local news July 23, 2017

7/14/2017 3:22:00 PM
County Board of DD chooses new JVAC provider
Decision goes against recommendation of JVAC Board

Associate Editor

A special meeting of the Jackson County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) was held this week in order to take a vote on a new adult services provider to assume control of the Wellston-based JVAC Industries.

The meeting, held Tuesday night, July 11 at Hope Haven School in Jackson, involved differing viewpoints regarding the two provider options of PCS and PALS, though the DD board's end decision was a 5 to 2 vote in favor of PCS or Person Centered Services, Inc. This decision was against the recommendation of the JVAC board.

Those present for Tuesday evening's meeting were DD board members Greg Blankenship, Joyce Haag, Philip Howe, Adam Massie, Joyce McClurg, Bob McCoy and Pat Pletcher, DD board Superintendent Nick Elliott, JVAC Director David Price, and JVAC board members Terry Gill, Renee Henry, and John Pelletier.

Once the meeting was called to order, Pelletier, who serves as the JVAC board's President, was given the opportunity to share his thoughts on what he and his fellow JVAC board members felt was the best choice for a new provider.

"I think in order for you to understand our decision, you also need to understand our journey," Pelletier said.

Approximately two years ago, he explained, the JVAC board took on the task of trying to become an independent provider all its own.

The group, Pelletier stated, spent "hours upon hours" on the formation of a constitution and by-laws for the organization, mission statements, a strategic plan, program evaluations, three separate budget forecasts, self-assessments, pages of policies and procedures, and so on. More recently, he said the group had completed and submitted its certification application, which was approved by the state as of June 1. The application was then sent to Medicaid for review and approval.

This, according to Pelletier, should have meant success, but following another self-assessment, the JVAC board discovered that, in the first month of independent operations, it would be falling roughly $17,000 short.

"Since we don't have much money in the bank and don't have a profit margin that would be entertained by a financial institution, we did as we promised in the very beginning and went in search of a plan B," Pelletier said.

That plan B, according to Pelletier, involved investigating numerous service providers. The board's final decision, he said, was "based on due diligence and not personal opinion." He stated that the PALS company "more accurately reflects [JVAC's] intention and vision."

"Intrinsically, I think they fit more because of their passion, but realistically there's more," Pelletier said.

After sitting through presentations from both of the providers in question, Pelletier said he and other JVAC board members were impressed by the PCS presentation, but were not comfortable with the fact that the company does not provide its employees with health insurance benefits. It was further stated that the PALS group does offer such benefits.

"As my dad used to tell me, if you have a good dog-and-pony show, it will be judged finally on how you treat both the dog and the pony," Pelletier stated.

During the process of submitting its certification application to the state, Pelletier said one of the mandates was for the JVAC board to retain a director and one employee. As a result, he said Price and Cheryl Norton severed themselves from the county DD board and would be left without health insurance should PCS be chosen. This choice was a voluntary one for Price, though Pelletier stated he was unsure in Norton's case.

"We, as a board, are uncomfortable with not offering benefits," Pelletier said. "It's hard to see how you, as a county board, cannot be uncomfortable asking these two employees and all other employees to possibly be without benefits. To keep quality people, you have to treat them like quality people. Without benefits, the turnover is great, the transition is great and the quality is not great."

Pelletier had also pointed out that DD board President McClurg had ensured JVAC board members that the county board would not do anything they were uncomfortable with. This statement, according to Pelletier, was made during a recent meeting of the JVAC board.

Holzer Medical Center

In all, Pelletier stated the JVAC board's decision was not one against PCS, but rather one for PALS.

Aside from the health insurance issue, another topic raised was that of compassion, which Pelletier, Henry and Gill all said seemed to be more present within the PALS company.

During the course of the meeting, DD board members gave their opinions on the matter, some of which were in line with the sentiment of the JVAC board, and others not so much. One of the common themes from these discussions was that the PALS group did not submit as thorough of a proposal to the DD board as did PCS, leaving many unanswered questions with regard to specific details.

DD board member Blankenship, for example, spoke in terms of his experience in the field of business management.

"From a business perspective, I have to go with what's placed in front of me," he explained. "Right now, I would be inclined to go with PCS, simply because this is still a business. I understand the heart part of it because that's why we all sit on this board, but at the end of the day, it has to be run like a business."

To that comment, Pelletier then asked Blankenship, who showed up late to the meeting and missed Pelletier's opening statements, if he had a manager spend two years on a project if he would then listen to what that person had to say. Blankenship stated that he would indeed do that. Pelletier then reiterated the fact that the JVAC board has been examining service providers over the course of the past two years and that PALS "most closely fits the vision" of JVAC.

"Without you doing the real due diligence of a board member and going and talking to both of these groups, your words are empty to the JVAC board in my personal opinion," Pelletier stated to Blankenship.

Once the issue did come to a vote, the county board ultimately went against the JVAC recommendation, and elected to award a contract to PCS by a vote of 5 to 2, with county board members Massie and Haag casting the only negative votes.

Before the vote was taken, Massie explained that the JVAC board is the group that will be living with the decision of the county board, as the county will no longer be involved with the operations of JVAC.

"From my perspective, your opinion is what matters and what counts," Massie said.

County DD board member McCoy expressed that simply allowing the JVAC group to make the decision would be an abdication of the duties of the DD board. This comment led Pelletier to question why the county board advocated the two years' worth of work by the JVAC board.

In the end, Pelletier said the JVAC board would do its best to move forward.

"We respect your decision," he said. "We don't agree with it, but we respect it. As a JVAC board, we still have decisions to make and we still haven't left the primary premise of helping those that are in the JVAC family."

DD board Superintendent Elliott has announced that all families, guardians, individuals and JVAC staff are being invited to attend an informational meeting in the Hope Haven School gymnasium on Monday, July 17 at 6 p.m. This meeting will allow representatives from PCS to present their plan for the future of JVAC Industries. Elliott further noted that JVAC will now once again have an open-door policy, which will allow all past JVAC attendees to return to the facility, if interested.

The closed-door policy that had been in effect, according to Pelletier, is one of the biggest contributing factors to budget shortfalls in the JVAC board's attempt to become an independent provider.

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