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Lawrence County Tax Board for the Developmentally Disabled chooses case management firm

Monday, August 31, 2009

After a protracted discussion, members of the Lawrence County Tax Board for the Developmentally Disabled voted to follow the lead of the Barry County Tax Board and recommend Community Support Services to handle targeted case management for the county. The Clark Community Mental Health Service presented a counter proposal in a 90-minute debate.

Having sought the contract to serve Lawrence County previously from the Department of Mental Health, the Clark Center found itself at a disadvantage when recently passed legislation shifted the selection for the service to the local level. The new law, Senate Bill 435, gives county tax boards for the developmentally disabled, known as Senate Bill 40 boards, the duty of selecting an agency for targeted case management once the Department of Mental Health privatizes that function.

The Clark Center took the unusual step of complaining to both the Barry and Lawrence County Commissions that the local SB 40 boards, whose members are appointed by the county commissions, were moving toward one provider and not giving the Clark Center a chance to compete. Consequently, George Woodward, executive director of the Lawrence County board, scheduled full presentations by both parties.

Much of the discussion centered on what is involved in providing targeted case management and which agency was best equipped to do so. Suzette Huntress, director of children's services for the Clark Center, said targeted case management provides direction for families, connecting clients with those who need services.

Jhan Hurn, head of Community Support Services, suggested targeted case management involves a more sophisticated linkage. Because his agency specializes in dealing with the developmentally disabled, Hurn said Community Support Services knows the providers and the service systems and could do the job better.

The Clark Center's primary focus as a provider of mental health services remained an issue throughout the discussion. Frank Compton, executive director of the Clark Center, argued the Clark Center was involved with the developmentally disabled as well. The Clark Center, Compton said, runs tests for school districts to see if children qualify for special services and has been connecting people with service providers for 20 years.

Hurn matched the connection with children by pointing out Community Support Services serves as the point of entry for the First Steps program in Barry and Lawrence counties. First Steps is the service actively engaged is identifying developmental disabilities on a preschool level.

Both agencies had letters of reference from state legislators and others citing qualifications. Compton said up until recently, choosing a provider for targeted case management had been a state process. The Clark Center had not come to the tax board to get involved locally, while Community Support Services was a newcomer into the bi-county area.

Traveling to get services remained an issue throughout the discussion. Carolyn Flummerfelt, Clark board member, said the Clark Center has offices in Pierce City and is focused on serving local people. The tax board's choice of provider has an economic impact.

Hurn said that while Community Support Services has no office presently in the county, one would be established in Aurora as a central location. Until that office opened, staff would work out of the tax board's facility in Aurora.

When it came to the mechanics of how to deliver targeted case management, Hurn provided more details. He talked about Community Support Services having credentialling under the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), establishing a hiring committee to assess employees and having Woodward serve on that committee.

Compton countered the issue was not over a résumé of services but over who could best provide targeted case management.

Tax board members almost tabled the matter for review. An initial motion to award services got no second.

As board members exchanged views, Izetta Osmond, the Pierce City delegate, said that as a matter of convenience and impact, keeping services in Pierce City would benefit her community and her job as special services director for the Pierce City School District.

However, Osmond found Community Support Services offered a very specialized service. She found the agency "totally focused" on the developmentally disabled and thus had her support.

Woodward reminded board members the Barry County Tax Board had already chosen Community Support Services. The board could reject both proposals, in which case families would have to keep going to the Joplin Regional Center for services.

A second motion to recommend Community Support Services passed unanimously.



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