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Group home reports struggles

January 26, 2001

Group home reports struggles



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - The Anita Lynne Home in Hagerstown, along with many agencies for people with developmental disabilities across the state, is struggling to pay its bills because of state regulations.

The home's administrators met with lawmakers and state officials in Annapolis on Thursday.

"It really puts an organization like ours into a difficult position. It puts the people we're serving in jeopardy," said William D. Short, executive director of finance for Melmark Inc., Anita Lynne's parent company.

The state Developmental Disabilities Administration is encouraging agencies to place their clients in homes with three residents or less, which are more expensive to run than a group home.

At the same time, the amount by which the state reimburses the agencies for taking care of the residents has dropped.

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The Maryland Association of Community Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities is lobbying Gov. Parris Glendening to add money to his budget for higher reimbursement rates.

It will cost $77 million to raise the federal and state rates enough to increase the average pay to $9.50 an hour, the association says.

The current rates only allow for $6.70 per hour, but Anita Lynne and other nonprofits subsidize that in order to find qualified people.

Glendening's proposed budget includes only enough money to give workers a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.

Employees and agencies are headed for burnout unless things change, said Joanne Gillis-Donovan, president and CEO of Melmark Inc.

"It's a downhill struggle for all concerned," she said.

Karen Post, western regional director for the Developmental Disabilities Administration, acknowledged it's a problem across the state.

"We are hearing from a lot of agencies that are struggling. I don't really know what the answer is," Post said.

There is not much more the state can do for Anita Lynne because several years ago the state changed its policy to give every region the same reimbursement rates instead of negotiating the rates with each agency, she said.

The Potomac Center in Hagerstown also has suffered from the loss of residents to community placements. As a result, employees and residents have been concerned that the center would close.

Post says the state has no plans to close the Potomac Center.

Del. David G. Boschert, R-Anne Arundel, organized the meeting because a large portion of the 32 residents at Anita Lynne are from his district.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. Louise Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, also attended.

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