The Louisiana Department of Health today announced the completion of cooperative endeavor agreements with two private companies to assume operations of Northwest Supports and Services Center in Bossier City and North Lake Supports and Services Center in Hammond, effective Oct. 1.

The Arc of Acadiana, headquartered in New Iberia, will manage Northwest Supports and Services Center, which currently has 131 residents, and Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, headquartered in Haughton, will manage North Lake Supports and Services Center, which currently has 214 residents.

"Both of these providers have a long, positive history of serving the residents of our state who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. We know they can ensure continuity of care to make the transition as smooth as possible for the people who are currently living in these centers," said LDH Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert.

LDH selected Arc of Acadiana and Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries after thoroughly reviewing the qualifications of several private organizations with experience caring for people who have developmental disabilities that expressed interest in operating the centers. As part of this process, LDH also sought input from the residents, family members and friends of the residents at these two facilities.

"We are excited to have another opportunity with the privatization of a large facility. We have learned a lot through our experiences with the former Acadiana Supports and Services Center. Now we are looking forward to the smooth and successful transition of Northwest Supports and Services Center," said Kenny Patton, Executive Director of Arc of Acadiana.

"Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, Inc. feels truly blessed with the opportunity to serve the men and women at North Lake Supports and Services Center. We look forward to our partnership with the Department of Health to enhance the quality of life for people served and their families," said Sharon Gomez, Vice President of Operations, Central Region, Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, Inc.

LDH announced plans to transfer the operations of the two Supports and Services Centers to private entities in June, as part of the State budget for Fiscal Year 2013. This strategy is in line with the department's overarching goal of ensuring that Louisiana residents have access to the most appropriate care in settings that are best suited for their needs. Over the years, health care professionals have determined that people with developmental disabilities who do not have complex medical/behavioral needs are often better served in less restrictive environments. Having private providers manage facility operations enables individuals and their families to explore treatment in the most independent settings, ensuring residents receive the critical care they need while making the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

This move is expected to save nearly $6.7 million in State General Fund dollars, while ensuring the facilities remain in their current locations, operating as large Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF/DDs) to meet the needs in their communities.

A cooperative endeavor agreement monitor for the LDH Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities will remain on staff at each facility to provide oversight for the private companies' operations and ensure compliance with the terms of their agreement with DHH. As part of the agreement, LDH requested that the private providers interview current employees who are interested in continuing to work at the facility after the transfer is complete. In previous instances, the private providers selected most who applied. For example, 78 percent of former Acadiana Area Supports and Services Center employees who applied for positions with The Arc of Acadiana were hired.

Kliebert added, "We know that the employees at these facilities have dedicated many years to serving the people of Louisiana, and that's precisely why we encourage the private providers to consider them for available positions. In addition to helping the employees remain employed, it ensures continuity of care for the residents."