The Association For Community Living Puts $51,000 in Grant Funds from Three Local Sources Toward its Strategic Planning Initiative

Results to include wide-scale improvements in staffing and structure to enhance care for clients across Western Mass. and their families


SPRINGFIELD – The Association For Community Living will use $51,000 in grant funds received from three private, local sources to complete and implement a strategic plan for the agency that will yield better service delivery to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Executive Director Barbara Pilarcik said that over the past year, the 61-year-old human services agency completed its three-year strategic plan. The Association is now in the process of executing it to restructure its five major divisions and streamline employee resources within those divisions; create a new, comprehensive database of client information; and train lead managers to take over senior leadership roles held by staff set to retire within five years.

Together, the changes – which the agency is supporting with in-kind contributions and roughly $47,000 of its own funds – will allow it to enhance its broad spectrum of services and improve care provided to people with developmental disabilities and their families across Western Massachusetts.

Pilarcik said outcomes will include the fact that the agency will be better able to anticipate the changing needs of individuals served and adjust their care plans as warranted. Also, she said, the agency’s leadership will be strengthened, and the nonprofit will have a clearer sense of how it fares in the industry.

“This broad, strategic work boils down to refining and improving all of the activities our staff perform every single day,” Pilarcik said. “We are making sure that we give our staff enough support so that they can be excellent at what they do and provide the best possible outcomes to the people we serve.

“We are grateful to the grantors for their generosity in providing the agency the means to move forward in such a well-thought-out way,” Pilarcik added.

The grantors for fiscal year 2014 are: The Beveridge Family Foundation, Inc., which awarded The Association $40,000; Westfield Bank, which gave $10,000; and Greenfield Savings Bank, which awarded $1,000.

Pilarcik said the strategic plan addresses three major agency goals: responding to the changing needs of individuals; responding to the changing financial dynamics of the health care system; and developing and implementing a management succession plan.

The Association has already taken two action steps: developing a new structure for program divisions and the staff within them while also creating a new, comprehensive data management system for client information.

Pilarcik said these actions improve inter-division communications and make it easier for divisions to collaborate around the changing needs of the individuals served.  The new data management system, due to go live this summer, will allow staff to more effectively analyze and anticipate clients’ changing needs.

“We’re getting close to becoming a $30 million agency,” Pilarcik said. “It is absolutely critical that we make these changes in structure, communications, and client data management across the agency.”

The “infomatics” – as the data is called in the health care industry – will help the agency to produce reports on how it is meeting benchmark standards in the industry and track and analyze its own data, seeking trends and best practices, Pilarcik said.

Data and the division refinements will also allow enhanced placement of clients, Pilarcik said.

“With our changes in staff and our new data system, we can make sure that we place new clients in the best possible division or program to meet their needs,” Pilarcik said. “And, if we’re assessing and evaluating peoples’ needs, we will be better positioned to anticipate issues and then to plan for them.”

Toward this end, Pilarcik said, The Association is forming two new clinical teams: one to review and evaluate the needs of individuals served and project their future needs and a second team that would allow the agency to better place incoming individuals.

The Association cares for people over their lifetime, Pilarcik said. Individuals can enter at age 22, or younger, and require services for their entire lives.

“Just like all of us, our clients change over the years. Sometimes they grow and do better and sometimes as they age, they have greater needs,” she said. “To the extent that we anticipate peoples’ needs, we’re reducing any untoward or unpleasant events for them.”

In terms of the goal of implementing a management succession plan, Pilarcik said a high number of senior-level staff are poised to retire in the next two to five years, so the agency is creating a formal leadership development plan.

“We are looking at leadership characteristics and gathering input from a number of external and internal sources, seeing how mid-level staff are performing in terms of the characteristics we have identified,” Pilarcik said. “This helps us to see trends and areas of strength. It also gives individuals a plan that they can work on to make sure they’re in the right job and receiving the right training.”

Pilarcik said a Leadership Institute has also been created for training lead managers. “We’re focusing on leadership here and what people need to do to step up,” she said. “We want to ensure that, over the coming years, and as people move up, they feel equipped to handle the job.”

# # #

The Association For Community Living has been Creating Opportunities, Building Relationships and Improving Lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities since 1952. Founded by the dedicated commitment of five young mothers of children with developmental disabilities who held a strong belief that their children had the same right as all other children—the right to live and grow with dignity in their own communities—The Association continues their vision today.

Our beginnings were modest and deeply rooted in Hampden County. Today, our reach extends to all of Western Massachusetts and parts of Central Massachusetts, supporting 1,116 individuals with autism, Down syndrome, fragile X, and other developmental disabilities and 760 families in 77 cities and towns with offices in Springfield, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hadley and Pittsfield.

We provide services that are many and varied, forming a continuum of support from infancy to old age with comprehensive services in five major areas - supported living, family services, employment services, social entrepreneurship, and recreation and enrichment. Additionally, we are recognized as a well-managed, fiscally responsible nonprofit agency with a budget of $27.5 million.

In October 2013, The Association was named in the Top 10 of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Super 60 in the total revenue category.