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Arc of Orleans, Genesee ARC have shared director

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2015 at 12:00 am

2 agencies are looking at more collaboration, possible merger

Photo by Tom Rivers – Donna Saskowski has been leading the Arc of Orleans County as executive director since April 1 on a six-month trial basis. She also is the executive director for the Genesee County ARC. She has led that agency for 11 years.

ALBION – The Arc of Orleans County and Genesee County ARC, two agencies that serve developmentally disabled residents, have collaborated with joint staff training for several years, as well as shared information technology services.

The two agencies since Aril 1 have shared an executive director. Donna Saskowski has led the Genesee County ARC for 11 years. The Arc of Orleans had been without a permanent executive director since Kellie Spychalski left in December to work in Niagara County with Opportunities Unlimited.

Patricia Kepner served as interim director for the Arc of Orleans for more than a year until Saskowski became the shared director on April 1. Kepner continues as director of quality assurance and the Camp Rainbow director for the Arc.

The two agencies are looking at more ways to share services, a discussion and study that could lead to a merger, Saskowski said today at the Arc’s administrative offices on Caroline Street.

An exploratory committee is looking at the issue with help from a consultant.

“I see opportunities,” Saskowski said. “We certainly compliment each other.”

The agency in Genesee County operates on about a $13 million annual budget with 340 staff members. In Orleans, the Arc has a $12 million budget and about 300 employees.

Saskowski said some of the ARC chapters in the state are reducing programs and staff due to shrinking government reimbursements and other fiscal challenges.

“We might be able to provide services in a better manner and be more stable as an agency,” Saskowski said about a possible merged agency.

Two counties with a bigger land area, Livingston and Wyoming, have a single ARC chapter, the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming.

Saskowski said if the discussion and study doesn’t lead to a merger, she expects there will be more partnering among the two agencies.

Her goal is to preserve as many programs and services as possible for developmentally disabled residents and their families. She has pushed for shared services, even when it resulted in more work for her by working in two counties.

“I’m more of a believer of being more efficient at the administrative level and putting those savings into programs,” she said.

She said the Arc chapters are wrestling with how to provide and foster community based employment for development disabled residents. The state is limiting sheltered workshops, where Arc consumers do light packaging and other tasks for businesses. The state isn’t allowing more people into those sites, instead pushing for other employment in the community.

Saskowski said agencies need to continue prevocational services, and try to have choices for developmentally disabled adults in the workplace.

She also wants more housing choices for developmentally disabled adults, which could be semi-independent living in apartments, additional “group homes” known as IRAs (Individualized Residential Alternative), or certified apartments where a staff members check in periodicaly to make sure the residents are taking medications and maintaining their living space.

Saskowski also worries about the state push for a $15 minimum for fast food workers. That could pull away employees from human services agencies, she said.

She would like to see more funding from the state for the ARC chapters, so ARC employees can earn more money.

Unlike fast food restaurants, which can raise prices to pay employees more, Saskowski said the agencies can’t pay employees more without assistance from the state.