After 2021 struggles, United Arc looks to regain trust in the new year

  • The United Arc on Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 1/4/2022 2:46:14 PM
Modified: 1/4/2022 2:45:34 PM

TURNERS FALLS — After a turbulent year that saw the United Arc remove its executive director after losing two state contracts, the organization is looking at 2022 as a chance to rebuild trust within the community.

As the United Arc lost its contracts, former employees and families served by the organization spoke about the downturn of its services and the toxic workplace culture that had festered for several years. As the calendar flips to January, Board of Directors President Bruce Biagi said the United Arc has turned “180 degrees” and has started to address the problems that plagued the agency.

“The culture is slowly being changed to reflect an understanding for accountability and documentation and why that’s important and why everyone should participate,” Biagi said by phone. “Both from the board and senior staff that’s present there now, with considerably more openness and discussions going both ways.”

The United Arc has tapped Fred Warren as its acting executive director and Biagi said he has done “an excellent job” thus far.

“I have confidence,” Biagi said, “in the new senior staff and Fred’s leadership.”

In response to the toxic workplace, Biagi said they have implemented biweekly reports, outside evaluations and monthly meetings. The agency is also starting quarterly staff surveys to ensure it is “getting feedback from all levels.”

In June and July, a state Office of Quality Enhancement (OQE) report found the United Arc was failing to manage its clients properly and revoked the agencies licenses for its Residential and Shared-Living, which were given to Servicenet. The agency was also put on a temporary license for its Individual Home Supports program, which will be reevaluated sometime in 2022. In the meantime, Biagi said the United Arc is working to improve its services and bring them back to the standard they were at before.

“Everything we’re doing is in response to what was found lacking,” Biagi said. “The bottom line is we now have an organization can respond much more appropriately and much more quickly and with input from everyone.”

Biagi estimated the relicensure review for the Individual Home Supports contract will come in August.

“I know we’re going to be ready,” he said.

As the United Arc picks up the pieces, Biagi said things have been going well and they may be looking to expand in 2022, if they can find the staff to work, however.

“It’s a possibility, we have been looking to expand … we’re looking for new space and, as everywhere, there is a problem with hiring,” Biagi said. “We’ve got to get over the bad perception of the Arc.”

Biagi said the agency’s Adult Support Services and Family and Youth Services are “very strong” and they hope to implement more community-based advocacy groups to bring people together.

“We look to (the existing services) as something that will probably grow in the future,” Biagi said. “Advocating for individuals and families as a way in the larger community that people can connect … increasing those efforts is another goal for the coming year.”

The top priorities for the year include securing the Individual Home Supports license, solidifying the improved work culture and reestablishing any trust that may have eroded in the community.

“We are getting ready to redefine a five-year plan of what our goals are,” Biagi said. “Our plans are to continue to communicate with the community.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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