The decades-old Dawn of Hope workshop, in the Johnson City Industrial Park, has been in transition for the past several years in preparation for a sweeping change in Medicaid rules that will require integrated community settings for services for people with developmental disabilities beginning in March.
How the new rules will impact the Dawn of Hope Development Center, which provides daily enrichment programming for several hundred area adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is not yet clear.
Dawn of Hope Director Lee Chase was in Nashville this week and did not respond to requests for a phone interview with the Johnson City Press.
A press release announcing the workshop’s closing issued by Dawn of Hope early Monday evening states in part:
“For the past two years Dawn of Hope has been developing strategies to successfully transition individuals to services which are more integrated and community based versus within a sheltered facility.
“During this time we have assisted 15 people formerly in sheltered employment with obtaining employment in the community. Also during this time we have been encouraging employers to consider integrated employment where individuals with disabilities would work alongside non-disabled people in the community.
“As we are in the final stages of this transition, the Dawn of Hope Board of Directors, our governing body, unanimously voted to discontinue providing the sheltered workshop services and associated contract work which is currently being provided at 2216 Eddie Williams Road in Johnson City, effective June 30, 2018.
“Dawn of Hope will continue to provide all other employment and career services, however as we will no longer be performing the current sub-contract services all employment services will be relocating to the central Dawn of Hope Community and Career Center located at 500 East Oakland Avenue.
“Individuals currently participating in the sheltered employment component will be offered other service opportunities including community supported employment or community based services.”
John Cardwell, director of vocational services for Dawn of Hope, said Tuesday 16 Dawn of Hope service recipients are employed at the workshop.
Of those 16, he said, a majority are at or beyond retirement age and have previously worked in community settings, but returned to the workshop to essentially work out their retirement. A smaller number are under age 62 and still within the traditional employment age.
“We will be working with each of those service recipients and their families on coming out into community, to see what services we can provide outside the vocational center.”
At its height, Cardwell said, the workshop employed approximately 120 people but reduced that number dramatically over the past two decades as the focus of the vocational program shifted to community-based employment.
New enrollment in the sheltered employment center was closed approximately five years ago in anticipation that the day would come that the workshop would close, Cardwell said. Approximately 30 people were employed when the new Medicaid rules were first announced in 2014.
After 32 years with Dawn of Hope, Cardwell said he has mixed emotions about the workshop’s closing, but was excited about the vocational program’s transition to community-based employment.
“We’re not closing the book. We’re just closing the chapter,” he said. “Through my 32 years at Dawn of Hope, we have pursued new endeavors as things change, as one thing closes down and something else opens up. We’re changing focus to integrated setting employment within the community, and it’s exciting. Our staff is trained to do that.”
Until now, Cardwell said, “We’ve had to split our efforts in what we do at the center and what we do in the community.
“The CMF (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) recommended this. We’re moving on to a new chapter. We’re ready to help our service recipients and their families make this transition. And it’s exciting to know we can blossom in a field we’re considered experts in. We can grow that and put in another chapter being written here at Dawn of Hope.”
Email Sue Guinn Legg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.