It’s been almost a year since the Arc of Acadiana was awarded the state contract to privatize a Bossier City residential facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A total of 390 employees of the former Northwest Supports and Services Center were invited to reapply for jobs. For director April Lee, it was not just about keeping her job. As the administrator, her house on the 100-acre grounds was on the line, too.
“When we found out we were being privatized, it was devastating. You can’t imagine that someone else is going to be able to come in and do what we do as state employees," Lee said, standing in The Gardens Northwest, a recently opened plant nursery on the Bossier City campus. "It was such a challenge from year to year just making it. Back then, it scared a lot of us because we didn’t know where we’d be in a few months.”
Today, there are 200 employees who care for the facility’s 124 residents, according to Lee. Some chose to look elsewhere for jobs within the state. Others were not rehired. But despite job losses, Lee found there was a lot of good that came out of going private – like the virtual elimination of red tape.
“Unfortunately, as a state facility, we were very limited in what we could do because the funds weren’t there. We had to go through budget cut after budget cut -- constantly cutting services and trying to make it by with what we had," Lee said. "Whereas, with The Arc, there’s just a whole lot more opportunity to be creative and not so much bureaucracy."
Before taking over the Bossier City facility, Arc of Acadiana privatized a state facility in Iota, La. Lee said lessons learned there continue to guide her work.
The Arc of Acadiana is planning its first charity golf tournament to raise money for its Bossier City facility on Oct. 25.