BY AMY ROSE
In less than two weeks, the scheduled elimination of 313 existing positions at Greene Valley Developmental Center will take effect, although far less than that number of current employees will lose their jobs.
As the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year on June 30 approaches, Jim Henry, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), visited The Greeneville Sun on Monday to speak about the latest changes at GVDC.
Henry discussed the local job cuts; changes to plans for the department's community homes being built in Greene County to house some GVDC residents; and the overall future of GVDC.
Accompanying Henry was Diana Davis, who oversees federal lawsuit and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance for the DIDD.
The 2011-12 state budget calls for eliminating 313 positions at GVDC. Of those, 210 were filled when the job cuts were originally announced by Gov. Bill Haslam, and 103 of the positions were vacant.
In the last several weeks, Davis said, there have been a variety of shifts, as employees with greater seniority have "bumped" those with less seniority, some employees have moved to other state positions, and others have simply retired or found new employment outside state channels.
As of today, Davis said:
* 119 of the 313 positions scheduled to be eliminated on June 30 are vacant, so no current employees will be affected by the elimination of those positions;
* 131 individuals currently working at GVDC are scheduled to lose their jobs as of the end of June 30 because they hold positions that are being eliminated;
* 31 additional individuals in positions scheduled to be eliminated will continue to be employed for the present, until the number of residents at Greene Valley is gradually reduced as a result of more residents moving to group homes, but these employees will eventually lose their positions also;
* about 32 employees who were in positions that are to be eliminated have moved to other state positions, mostly within the department. This figure continues to change, Davis said.
The GVDC employees who are losing their jobs will receive a severance package that includes a $3,200 payment, two years of free tuition at any state-operated university or vocational school, and any leave time they have accrued, Davis said.
The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development is conducting a career fair from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Comfort Inn. The Job Fair is designed especially for GVDC employees who are losing their jobs but is also open to other local persons seeking employment.
At the beginning of this fiscal year, 2010-11, GVDC had a total of 1,291 authorized positions, some of which were vacant, Davis said.
As of July 1, this number will be reduced by 313, leaving a total of 978 authorized positions, Davis said.
Of these remaining total positions, 691 will be at GVDC, 242 will be in the community homes, and 45 will work as specialists at a resource center at GVDC, Davis said.
This center will be staffed by behavioral specialists, technological support staff and other specialists that will serve GVDC, the community homes and other related agencies, Henry said.
The state is spending $4.7 million to fund the center to ensure that these vital services stay in place, Henry said.
Henry and Davis also detailed changes to the plans for building community homes in Greene County for GVDC residents.
The East Tennessee Homes program is being directed by Margi Story, a former associate director of Greene County Skills.
The DIDD's East Tennessee regional office in Knoxville is overseeing the community homes program in this region of the state.
Each home will house four individuals with developmental disabilities and up to 16 staff members.
A total of 242 staff members will be working in the homes, all of whom formerly worked at the GVDC campus, Henry said.
Of the 16 planned homes, five have been completed and are occupied, and eight are being built, Henry said.
Construction of those eight is scheduled to be complete by September, Henry said.
The three remaining homes have been scaled down to reduce the cost of the projects, he said.
They will be 3,000 square-feet, compared to the other 13 homes built at 4,000 square-feet.
The three homes still to be built will house the same number of people as the first homes, he said. The cost of those three homes will be reduced from $850,000 apiece to $550,000, Henry said.
The primary changes in the design of the homes is the elimination of a large carport and an inside atrium, and reduction of the size of the inside hallway, Henry said.
This same scaled-down design will be used for the 11 community homes to be built in Middle Tennessee for residents moving out of Clover Bottom Developmental Center in Nashville, Henry noted.
Construction of the three remaining homes in Greene County will be bid next month, and the projects will be complete around July 2012, Henry said.
If any funding is left from the reduction of the plans, additional homes can be built, although there are no immediate plans to build more at this time, he said.
GVDC TO STAY OPEN
Henry said there are no plans to close GVDC, which he said plays a vital role for medically fragile individuals.
He spoke highly of GVDC's long-standing history of providing high-quality care for individuals with developmental disabilities.
"This has been a very good facility for a very long time," he said.
State projections show that 146 residents will live at GVDC by the end of 2012, compared to 197 now, Henry said.
He added that the DIDD will do everything possible to ensure that those who need the department's services will be placed where they can receive the best care for their specific needs.
While the trend is to move individuals away from institutional care, he said, each individual's "circle of support" will be able to choose where they need to live.
This circle includes the individuals' family members, guardians or conservators, and healthcare professionals.
Also involved in this process is a court-appointed quality review panel.
"We're going to do the best we can to try to help these people," he said.
As commissioner of the DIDD, Henry said his philosophy is that he has three main tasks:
* place all individuals in a program where they can succeed;
* protect them from harm, and
* provide them with great medical care.
"They deserve that," he said.