Press-Republican

Local News

March 30, 2013

Agency aims to enrich lives of developmentally disabled

PORT HENRY — Mountain Lake Services’ leader says the agency has a commitment to the people it serves and the communities where they live.

“We want to let people know what we’re all about, the good work we do,” Executive Director Martin Nephew said in a recent interview.

“We’re continually assessing ourselves to see what we’re doing right and what we need to get better at. We want to be a better agency.”

Nephew has worked for Mountain Lake Services for 21 years, two as executive director. Sitting in the conference room at the agency’s Port Henry headquarters, he leafed through documents that describe the human-services agency’s many programs.

Those include residential care for people with developmental disabilities, home- and family-based support; a summer day camp for children; supported employment; Medicaid service coordination; an early intervention program; Essex Industries, a sheltered workshop that makes picnic tables and canoe accessories; and Mountain Weavers Fiber Arts Guild, where hand-crafted baskets are made.

EMPLOYS HUNDREDS

Mountain Lake Services started in 1974 as the Essex County ARC. It now serves 521 people with developmental disabilities and employs 727 full- and part-time workers at locations throughout Essex County.

A private, nonprofit agency, it has an annual budget of $42 million, with most of its funding coming from the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Medicaid.

The agency has a starting wage of $11.25 an hour for entry-level positions.

“We’re the largest employer in the county,” Nephew said. “In the history of the agency, we’ve never had to have layoffs.”

Friday, after the state budget was finalized with 4.5 percent less funding for agencies that provide services to people with developmental disabilities, he said Mountain Lake was not intending to lay off any employees.

The state had yet to define where  would be made, Nephew said, but “we’re preparing for cuts ... wherever possible without sacrificing services.”

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