Employees protest the privatization of state group homes

VINELAND – “It would devastate our community.”

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are hoping to raise awareness for what they say are the damaging affects of privatizing state group home.

“What would happen is they would be out of work, some of them would be able to draw employment or bump other employees that would put them out of work,” said AFSCME Local 2215 president, Mattie Harrell.

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The state argues the switch is needed to establish parity and align resources. Along with job loss, employees worry what this may do to the quality of care.

“The quality of care is excellent and they have never had any closed for any neglect or anything else, unlike private homes,” said Harrell.

The state disputes that claim, a Human Services Representative issued a statement saying:

“Under a fee–for–service payment system, individuals with developmental disabilities will be able to move into and receive supports from providers of their choice. This flexibility is required in our Medicaid waiver programs and not possible if state workers staff the home because there are fixed costs that are not portable to new providers if residents decided to move.”

Senator Jeff Van Drew had previously fought to keep developmental centers open, but he says this is a different situation.

“The state is saying because of the federal rules and regulations, its necessary, we’re trying to really dig into that and see if that’s accurate,” said Van Drew. “We can’t stop it, we can’t stop privatization, and we’re going to see if there’s a way we can help, and any way we can keep the people working.”

Officials with the Department of Human Services say the transfer of operations will begin in December.

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