Kentucky

Oakwood, home for mentally disabled, cuts 200 jobs

Bluegrass Oakwood is a state-run facility in Somerset for the developmentally disabled. One of its goals is to move more people into the community, and that led to the drop in number of residents.
Bluegrass Oakwood is a state-run facility in Somerset for the developmentally disabled. One of its goals is to move more people into the community, and that led to the drop in number of residents. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Bluegrass Oakwood has cut about 200 jobs because of a dip in the number of residents at the Somerset facility for the developmentally disabled.

Shannon Ware, CEO of Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation, said Wednesday that 168 people were laid off, but the total number of positions eliminated was about 200. The remaining positions that were eliminated were open positions. The cuts were across all levels of the organization.

The layoffs were announced Friday, and employees were given 30 days notice.

Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation has had a contract with the state to run Oakwood since 2006. That contract was decreased by $15 million this year because the number of residents at the once-troubled facility has dropped from 240 in 2006 to 124 today.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services cut the contract from $69.9 to $54.5 million, which necessitated the layoffs. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Ware said the mission of Oakwood has been to move more people into the community. That's what they have done.

"It does feel like we are the victims of our own success," Ware said.

Carolyn Siegel, vice chair of the Bluegrass board, said the organization is working to find positions for those people who have been laid off within Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation, a nonprofit that also runs Eastern State Hospital and other outpatient and community-based services for the mentally ill or disabled.

"We are going to do everything that we can to offer these people positions," Siegel said. "These are good people."

The staff at the facility is directly responsible for Oakwood's turnaround over the past few years, and that's what makes the layoffs so difficult, Ware said.

Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said the $15 million decrease in the contract was necessary because of the drop in the number of residents at Oakwood.

"Due to the census decrease at Oakwood, fewer staff are needed to meet the needs of the people served at the facility," Midkiff said. "As a result of this census decrease, and in order to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars, reductions appear to be necessary. We have worked in cooperation with Bluegrass to make these changes in the most sensitive fashion to continue to safeguard excellent care for the clients at the facility."

Patient care will not be jeopardized by the cuts, staff members said.

Oakwood is set up as a campus with smaller units or homes. Three of those homes will be closed, and residents will be moved to other homes.

Before the announcement of Friday's layoffs, Oakwood had 1,000 employees and is one of the largest employers in Somerset.

Oakwood was nearly shut down several years ago because of repeated problems at the facility. Since Bluegrass Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation took over the facility in 2006, Oakwood has turned the corner, Ware said.

Ware said that a court-appointed monitor overseeing the facility said after an April visit that Oakwood was a "model for the rest of the country; we're doing it right," said Ware. "We were lauded as one of the best facilities of our kind."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments