WCDC Work Program’s Future Remains In Doubt

BERLIN – The future of the work program at the Worcester County Developmental Center remains uncertain as the state transitions to meet new federal requirements.

Last month, officials from the Worcester County Developmental Center (WCDC) announced that the center-based employment offered to clients was in jeopardy as Maryland put together its plan to come into compliance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) final ruling regarding home and community based services. Though the state released its transition plan last week, what’s going to become of the WCDC program is still unclear.

“We are going to continue doing what we have been doing,” WCDC Director Jack Ferry said. “We will make certain that all options are on the table for the client to select from and that his choice is honored. We can’t wait four more years for Maryland to figure things out.”

Friends and parents of many of the individuals with developmental disabilities who attend WCDC wrote to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to express support of the center’s existing work program. Ferry’s concern is that in coming into compliance with the CMS final rule, the state will end facility-based work programs and instead require the organization to find its clients jobs in the community. While the center does place individuals who can handle such jobs in positions in the community, Ferry says some simply can’t manage it.

He sought the support of local politicians in Annapolis and several agreed to send letters in support of the developmental center’s program to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Ferry was disappointed last week to learn that the nearly 600-page transition plan the state developed makes the program’s future no clearer than it was in December. Both the plan and the public comments submitted are available through the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website.

While some of the comments submitted advocate for the continuation of programs like those at WCDC, others suggest they should be ended. As a result, the state response in the public comments section of the transition plan says further investigation is needed.

“The state has received differing opinions on the topic of sheltered workshops and day habilitation — some have expressed a desire to close such center-based employment settings while others have urged to keep them as an option for participants who are guaranteed freedom of choice as part of the person-centered planning process,” the documents reads. “The state will need to further investigate what is happening at each site by developing an evaluation tool to gauge level of compliance. Through the heightened scrutiny process and site visit evaluations, the state will make determinations regarding compliance in such settings.”