Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


WCDC still fighting new federal regs

(Dec. 3, 2015) The Worcester County Developmental Center (WCDC) continues to fight new federal regulations that could compromise the operational abilities of the Newark facility, as well as similar centers statewide.
Vocational training centers like the developmental center are being targeted by the Department of Justice following a ruling by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Home and Community Based Services.
Under the new regulations, people with disabilities would be pushed into the public workforce and away from centers like WCDC in an attempt to integrate them into working society. Also at issue is that wages paid worker by vocational centers are less than the required minimum, which the federal government seeks to remedy by putting more people out in the field.
Executive Director Jack Ferry said if the ruling is upheld it would affect how WCDC and others assist people with disabilities with vocational training, essentially replacing facility-based employment and training with community-based activities.  
Ferry sent a letter to the Worcester County Commissioners last week, asking for support during a scheduled meeting in Salisbury on Dec. 3.
He said the meeting would include representatives from the Town of Salisbury, as well as members of the Eastern Shore and Lower Shore delegations, including Sen. Jim Mathias and delegates Charles Otto, Mary Beth Carozza, Sheree Sample-Hughes and Chris Adams.
“CMS wants people with disabilities to be more integrated into the community, and so do we. However, all people with a disability are being painted with a broad stroke, which could jeopardize individual choice,” he said in the letter.
“Our goal is to help everyone work and live independently in the community. That is the goal. The reality is something different,” Ferry continued. “While we have a number of clients who have gone through our employment training programs and are now working successfully in the community, there are many more that come to our facility every day who are not yet ready for community employment but take steps towards independence by performing real work that is contracted through local employers.”
Ferry said the state was working on transitioning into compliance with the new CMS regulations, and hoped he and others could sway its stance on the ruling.
Reached for comment, a number of officials in Worcester County voiced their support for the center.
Carozza said she has been working directly with Ferry on how lawmakers could address the federal regulations at the state level, adding that those rules would affect both WCDC and Lower Shore Enterprises Inc. (LSE) in Salisbury.
“I understand and share the CMS goal of ensuring that more people with disabilities are integrated into the community. However, I also share WCDC’s and LSE’s concerns that the individual choices of people with disabilities could be jeopardized if current options, including the choice of working in a facility-based employment-training program like WCDC, are eliminated,” she said.
While CMS focused on “community-based activities” including volunteering, recreation and socialization, Carozza said she did not believe that should preclude people with disabilities from pursuing employment in facilities such as WCDC and LSE.  
“When you see the candle-making operations, commercial laundry work and the landscape services at WCDC, you can understand that these individuals are choosing to work, and many turn around and spend their paychecks at local businesses,” she said.
“I think we should continue to encourage those individuals with disabilities to work in the community if they are able to do so, but for those who cannot due to either the level of their disability or lack of employment opportunities, they should have the opportunity to work in a facility like WCDC if that is their choice,” Carozza continued.
Mathias praised the center, calling it an “absolutely critical” resource for those with developmental disabilities in the county.
“I want to do my very best to make certain that the developmental center is still there to provide opportunities for the men and women that they serve and work with,” he said. “The best thing that they do is enable and provide opportunity for those men and women, so I want to do anything and everything I can do to continue to allow that to happen.”
Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino also said he was backing the center, and planned to attend the meeting on Dec. 3.
“I think [the regulations] would impact negatively the folks who the center serves, and I think that would be extremely unfortunate,” he said. “So many of these clients that utilize the development center get a great deal of pride and satisfaction at being able to work – and certainly get a paycheck. To see that go away or see that restricted in some way, I think, would be wrong for our community and any other community that benefits from a facility like this.”
Bertino said he was optimistic the new regulations could be stopped in some way, at least within the state.
“I’m hopeful that, with our state delegation, working on the center’s behalf, that consideration can be given for the developmental center,” he said. “My understanding is it’s the only brick and mortar facility of its kind in the area, and it really does serve a great, great purpose.
“I’m hopeful they can change or amend regulations so the developmental center is not impacted negatively by it,” Bertino added.
In an interview last Tuesday, Ferry underscored the importance allowing clients at the center to continue working for a wage.  
“Work is extremely important for our clients,” he said. “It is a way they pay their bills and buy their groceries. But more important, it is a way they contribute to the community. They know when they work they are dong something important. Work is also how they feel like everybody else. At home, mom and dad go to work. Their brothers and sisters go to work. By going to work they are just like everybody else in the family.
“WCDC is more than work,” Ferry continued. “WCDC is where they see their friends. It is where they are supported and taught in a nurturing, protective environment. I shudder to think of the emotional and mental health issues that will arise if they can no longer work with their friends at WCDC.”
Ferry stressed that the center would not close if the regulations were upheld by the state, but said work, by the clients, could no longer continue within the facility.
“Our clients will either have to get a job in the community – which few will be able to do – or engage in recreation and enrichment activities in the community,” he said. “One of the new programs offered by the state, Community Learning Services, does not allow the clients to receive any services in the building.”
He encouraged members of the public to support the center by sending a letter, by Feb. 15, to Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 201 West Preston Street, Baltimore, Md. 21201, or emailing