A local program focused on helping adults with developmental disabilities become full participating members of the community by equipping them with work and life skills is losing about 10 percent of its funding in fiscal 2017-18 due to state budget cuts.

Robin Whittington, executive director of Wilkes Adult Developmental Activity Program (ADAP), said the $42,537 cut (from $200,371 in 2016-17 to $157,833 this year) was in the contract she signed with Asheville-based Vaya Health, which oversees behavioral health care in Wilkes and 22 other western North Carolina counties.

Whittington shared this information with the Wilkes County commissioners during their Aug. 1 meeting. The state channels funds for behavioral health care through Vaya (formerly Smoky Mountain) and six other managed care organizations (MCOs) statewide.

Whittington, accompanied by several ADAP clients, requested $42,537 from the county as “emergency additional funding.” This would be in addition to $32,400 allocated to ADAP in the 2017-18 county budget, the same as the prior year. ADAP requested $40,000 in 2017-18.

“I was stunned by this decision and I cannot appeal it,” said Whittington, who learned about the cut in a June 9 email from Vaya.

ADAP’s funding through Vaya/Smoky Mountain has been reduced the last three years and hasn’t been increased in eight years, said Whittington. ADAP hasn’t had an increase from Wilkes County government in 12 years, she added.

She said ADAP has provided work and life skills training and other services for over 150 developmentally disabled adults in Wilkes over the last 42 years, including 42 clients now employed by 32 entities. ADAP helps its clients get jobs cleaning offices and homes, mowing and other yard work, crushing cans and picking up trash. This includes providing them transportation through Wilkes Transportation Authority and with three vans owned by ADAP and driven by ADAP employees.

They also bake cookies that ADAP sells and shred papers for companies at the ADAP office on Boston Avenue, North Wilkesboro.

“I am here to speak to you for those who can’t…. They don’t want anything handed to them and they definitely don’t want to sit at home and be couch potatoes,” said Whittington. ADAP clients have checking accounts, pay taxes and are dependable and respected in the community, she added.

Whittington, employed by ADAP for 39 years, said the agency’s budget has no frills and now has a big hole. She said it will be hard to provide the current level of service with the cut.

Greg Minton, chairman of the commissioners, said ADAP provides a valuable service and has a good reputation. He thanked Whittington for making the commissioners aware of the funding cut and added, “Hopefully we’ll be back in touch.”

In an interview, Minton said he supported giving the request more consideration.

Whittington said in an interview that she and the ADAP board are waiting to hear back from county government before deciding what to do next.

ADAP has an annual budget of about $400,000. In addition to Vaya and county government, ADAP’s primary financial support in 2017-18 includes the annual ADAP Luncheon ($50,000), United Way of Wilkes ($32,000), Wilkes Community College ($22,500), vocational rehabilitation/N.C. Department of Health and Human Services ($15,000), VOCA/Community Alternatives ($15,600), Wilkes Board of Education ($11,385) and ADAP fees ($8,500). There are other smaller appropriations.

Personnel costs totaling about $340,000 account for most of ADAP’s expenses, including $330,593 for employee salaries and benefits and $9,665 for employer’s insurance. ADAP employs 12 people, including the two van drivers. Whittington said ADAP’s staff haven’t had pay raises in four years.

Commissioner Gary Blevins said in the meeting that he called VAYA CEO Brian Ingraham earlier on Aug. 1 and asked if ADAP’s funding cut could be reduced. “He said ‘maybe.’ Those were his exact words,” said Blevins.

Based on other statements Ingraham made, Blevins said he believes Vaya is asking the N.C. Division of Medical Assistance to allow it greater flexibility in shifting certain state funds between programs.

Ingraham indicated the same thing in an interview with the Wilkes Journal-Patriot last week and said he might know more as early as this week.

Blevins said funding cuts in the new state budget made it even harder to serve people not on Medicaid and the uninsured or under-insured, which includes many of Vaya’s clients.

Vaya’s portion of statewide cuts in non-Medicaid dollars from fiscal 2014-15 through 2018-19 is $64.5 million, which is on top of $31 million in non-Medicaid cuts in the prior six years, stated a three-page letter sent by Vaya to ADAP and other agencies on July 15.

The letter said Vaya is having to use its fund balance to supplement non-Medicaid services since the legislature mandated that it and other MCOs continue services at their 2015 levels despite the cuts. The legislature required that MCOs do this by using money they saved through efficient Medicaid management.

According to the letter, Vaya already spent about $11 million in the last two years of $21.4 million in Medicaid savings designated for initiatives in communities.

The letter said the latest cuts resulted in Vaya dropping several planned initiatives, including a 24-hour facility in North Wilkesboro for people in mental health crisis.

Blevins said the 16-bed facility was in the design stage “when Vaya pulled out of it completely.”

Vaya proposed the facility last summer as a 10,000-square-foot addition to the Daymark Recovery Services building at West Park, offering mental health crisis and alcohol/drug detox services for people in Wilkes, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties seeking care voluntarily or under involuntary commitment. It would serve those with Medicaid, no insurance and the underinsured, with a typical stay of four to five days. A Daymark official said it would create 30 or more new jobs.

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