By Gina Macris
Rhode Island has renewed the operating license of Community Work Services (CWS), the developmental disability service provider on probation for the past year, with the stipulation that it continue detailed or “enhanced” reporting on its activities through April.
The full license, issued Dec. 19 by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, (BJDDJ) is valid for two years, the standard duration for organizations of its type.
CWS had come under fire from the federal court monitor overseeing the state’s implementation of two disability rights agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice that are intended to correct an overreliance on sheltered workshops and segregated day programs that violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA.).
The monitor, Charles Mosley, said shortcomings at CWS had prevented the state from meeting goals for job placements required by the first of the two civil rights agreements, the so-called Interim Settlement Agreement of 2013.
That document focused on the former Training Through Placement (TTP), a sheltered workshop in North Providence, that used the special education Birch Academy at Mount Pleasant High School as a feeder program for its workforce.
Craig Stenning, former BHDDH director, brought in the Boston-based CWS in 2013 to turn around TTP. But after making some initial progress, the track record of CWS remained essentially flat for four years, according to Moseley, the monitor. CWS is a program of the New York-based Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, whose website lists Stenning as senior vice president for the New England region and executive director of CWS in Massachusetts.
After the state gave CWS in Rhode Island notice last spring that it would not extend the agency’s probation beyond the end of 2017, CWS began a major overhaul, including a complete turnover of personnel. The executive director of CWS in Rhode Island is now Lori Norris.
The most recent courtroom review of the situation occurred Nov. 30 before Judge John J. McConnell Jr. The next hearing is April 10, before the end of the enhanced reporting period stipulated in the new license.