The United Arc earns new contract as rebuild continues

  • Staff meeting at The United Arc in Turners Falls. From left are Joel Torres, Fred Warren, Shannon Reade, Michelle Callings and Lucien du Toit. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • United Arc CEO Fred Warren, pictured in his office in Turners Falls.

  • The United Arc’s offices on Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/26/2022 3:52:12 PM
Modified: 8/26/2022 3:52:04 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Just over a year after the state Department of Developmental Services ordered The United Arc to surrender its Residential and Shared-Living contracts, the organization has earned a two-year license to retain its Individual Home Supports contract.

In July 2021, a state Office of Quality Enhancement report found the organization was failing to properly serve its clients and families, which was echoed by former United Arc employees and families later that year. In the time since, the organization has installed new leadership, implemented new internal policies, and is rebuilding trust within the community.

United Arc CEO Fred Warren, who has been with organization for 3½ years and was promoted to the role in April, said regaining a two-year license for its Individual Home Supports program is a culmination of a year’s worth of work and reaffirms the organization’s dedication to serving the community. The Individual Home Supports program, which was on a temporary license after the Department of Developmental Services’ report, supports 48 individuals.

“It’s great because it really confirms what everybody here knew in terms of the work we’re doing and the quality of the people employed by the agency,” Warren said. “I’m lucky enough to get to work with more than 80 amazing team and staff members.”

In an email, The United Arc’s board of directors President Bruce Biagi said everyone is “pleased and relieved” to have retained this license after a tough year. In January, Biagi said The United Arc had turned “180 degrees” as it began addressing the issues that plagued the agency.

“It was a difficult time for sure, but I know that The United Arc is all that much stronger as an organization,” Biagi wrote. “The bottom line, above all else, is to provide outstanding services to better the lives of the families and individuals we serve. We are in a position to continue to do that now and into the future.”

The United Arc, founded in 1951 by Rita Marguerite Canedy and incorporated in 1960, serves clients living with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties through its offices in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Holyoke and Athol.

“One of the things we looked back at was going back to what this organization was all about, which was the families,” Warren said. “We’re making an effort to reconnect with families that were associated with us.”

As the agency worked toward a new workplace culture, Warren was tapped as CEO, Joel Torres was named as the director of adult and support services, and the organization began looking toward outside support, which Warren said was met with open arms.

“It was a culture change in general, more openness and fully utilizing all of the resources we had,” Warren said about how The United Arc has turned things around. “Over and over again, those requests were met with, ‘We’d love to help.’ … It sounds kind of cliche, but it truly was just that notion of being comfortable putting everything out there.”

Biagi said it was a long road, but everyone with The United Arc came together and this result, of securing a two-year license to keep its Individual Home Supports program, is because of that.

“It seemed like a Herculean task at the beginning,” he said. “Everyone worked so hard and it is rewarding to have such an excellent result.”

During the process of retaining the Individual Home Supports program, Warren said The United Arc was able to add Family Navigation and Peer Mentor programs, which will further help the agency continue to work with people.

“I’m excited that even during this process, we were able to qualify for two new DDS contracts,” Warren said. “We want to make sure people can be a part of the Arc throughout their entire lifespan.”

Looking ahead, Warren said The United Arc will continue rebuilding relationships with state and local partners, while also fostering new ones.

“I’m really excited to see where we can go with this as we look at how we can continue to have an impact and advance the mission of the Arc,” Warren said.

Looking back on the turbulent year, Warren said the outlook for The United Arc is positive and this is something they look back on as a moment of growth.

“Things are all pointing in the right direction,” he said. “It will be a great story for all of us to tell when we look back at where we were in 2021.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.

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