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After 45 years, Warren County is expected to sever ties with an employment services center for about 150 residents with developmental disabilities.
The planned privatization of Production Services Unlimited (PSU), in response to a federal mandate, will affect about 150 adults with developmental disabilities currently developing work skills at the facility and 60 employees. It is also expected to result in sale of the building — where the employment and other day services have been provided since 1971.
Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities officials are working to minimize impact on those served at PSU, located at 575 Columbus Ave. in Lebanon.
“Our hope is what this means to families and individuals is nothing,” said Megan Manuel, superintendent of the county board.
With training at PSU, developmental disabled residents move into jobs with private companies.
Currently, 91 are working independently, with another 90 with employers, but under supervision by staff, according to DD officials.
Other day services are also provided at PSU.
Already the county board has formed a new board to oversee the privatized employment center.
Next the PSU board is to employ a manager to oversee the operation.
By Jan. 1, 2018, the transfer from the county to the new board is to be complete.
“At the end of the day, it’s going away,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said during a work session Tuesday with the county commissioners.
The changes were mandated in Ohio in 2014 by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to end potential conflicts of interest between those providing employment services and other daytime services, as well as transportation, and overseeing care of those with developmental disabilities.
Service providers around the country face the same mandates.
Options considered by the DD board included privatizing PSU; finding a private operator; or closing it entirely and finding providers for the services.
The federal guidelines are designed to provide continued services, while curbing the costs of serving those funded through Medicaid and Medicare.
“What the federal government is trying to do is make sure the public is getting their best bang for the buck,” Commissioner Dave Young said.
Currently, the board spends $4.5 million to $5 million a year at the center, in addition to Medicaid reimbursements.
Young said the mandate was designed to reduce the public cost of providing social services.
“We can’t do everything for everybody,” he said. “We have to look at ways of cutting costs.”
After privatization, the developmentally disabled workers will be paid 40 percent from the DD board and 60 percent from Medicaid, according to Manuel.
Under the new board, staff could see different, potentially lower, salaries and different benefits than when they worked for the DD board as county employees.
Staffers will be permitted to keep paying into the state retirement system, but also will be required to pay into Social Security, Manuel said.
“They would actually be paying double retirement,” Manuel said Friday at PSU, as workers boxed products for companies.
To educate the public on the coming changes, the board is holding two sets of meetings on May 2 and May 10 at the Warren Young Center in Lebanon.
While the commissioners control the DD board budget, the changes made at PSU to comply with the mandate are up to the board, Fornshell advised the commissioners.
Fornshell said the commissioners should focus on what should be done with the public assets: the building, equipment and inventory.