The Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities voted on Oct. 15 to privatize its adult array services by Sept. 1 of next year.
"Its not like we are looking to flip a switch and be out of the business," Superintendent Kim Miller said. "We plan on working with the 90 individuals we currently serve and with their families to help them select the best provider for their needs."
The board estimates that privatizing services will save more than $10 million over the next seven years, a necessity given falling revenues and expected increases in the number of adults requiring care. Miller said UCBDD expects to add 13 clients every year through 2030, which would more than double its base.
Miller said the board does not plan to choose a single provider for all of its services.
"We will have one provider come in and support those individuals with disabilities who are currently putting together the Honda owners manual kits for U-Co Industries," he said. "But our goal with all of our services will be to encourage a private market to give our clients choices that best suit their needs."
Miller compared what the board hopes to create to the way the Medicaid system already works.
"If you are on Medicaid, the state doesnt tell you which doctor to go to," he said. "The state gives you a Medicaid card and tells you, Go to any physician of your choice who accepts Medicaid. "
Individuals and their families will be able to quickly switch providers if they are unhappy with their services, Miller said, just like youd find another doctor if you didnt like your current doctor.
"That will be our responsibility, to make sure we guide our clients and to see they have choices," he said. "We are not in any way giving up on our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our clients."
Not everyone is happy with the move to privatize.
Charli Crawford chairs an ad hoc financial committee put together by the board last January to explore privatization.
In September, she turned over a 256-page booklet to County Prosecutor David Phillips, accusing Miller and the board of wrongdoing and impropriety.
"Were still waiting to hear back from the county prosecutor about our allegations," Crawford said.
In the meantime, shes begun another campaign to prevent the UCBDDs WorkNet program from being privatized.
"We are trying to protect our children," Crawford said. "And Im not going to stop fighting. I think we have an obligation."
Phillips said he has reviewed Crawfords booklet but needed more information before making any sort of determination.
"The first thing to mention is, these are not criminal allegations," he said. "Right now, there are a lot of summary (civil) allegations and no evidence of wrongdoing or impropriety.
"I think whats happened is, these folks dont like the answers theyve been getting from the board and so theyre going after individuals,"Phillips said.