Erie nonprofit assumes control of programs for people with intellectual disabilities
Bedford-Somerset Developmental & Behavioral Health Services is working with an Erie-based company to expand its programs for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Barber National Institute has assumed operation of the agency’s prevocational and community support programs, originally called workshops. The institute was chosen after completing a four-month consultation project with DBHS. The transition was finalized on Jan. 17.
Carrie Kontis, the institute’s vice president for intellectual disability services, said the institute plans to continue several programs while helping people with intellectual disabilities integrate better with their local communities.
“We thought that our mission was very comparable, and that we could do some good work to help people who needed service,” she said.
The programs support 53 adults in Somerset and 44 adults in Bedford. The institute serves 6,100 children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities and behavioral health challenges in Pennsylvania.
Kontis said the goal of support programs is to match an individual with activities that help them to socialize and become part of the community. These experiences can include shopping, bowling and volunteer experiences with churches and food pantries.
“That could be getting involved with local shops; that might be looking to see what other employment there is and introducing what that looks like and seeing what interests they have moving forward to participate in the event,” she said.
Kontis said the hope is these activities and programs will help individuals gain employment in the community.
“One of our emphases will be to help people get out into their community, to engage on that level and become even more familiar with activities and opportunities in the Somerset area,” she said.
DBHS Administrator Mary Piatt-Bruner said the county was a long-standing provider of services for adults with intellectual disabilities, but under the federal requirements for funding, a group cannot be the provider of both services and oversight.
“We play a big part in oversight of services and programs, so we had to divest our provider network,” she said. “So this is a four-year plan, and this is the last piece of that plan.”
Piatt-Bruner said the goal all along was the least amount of disruption possible for individuals the agency was serving.
The institute announced in a press release that 14 agency staff chose to stay during the transition. In addition, three employees were hired in Bedford and six in Somerset.
“We’re happy about that because of the level of knowledge of the Somerset area and because of the individuals themselves,” Kontis said.
Kontis added that she hopes consumers have a level of comfort going through this transition.
“Hopefully, they will find our service beneficial to them,” she said.