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A Conversation With … Mike Powers on nonprofit growth

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Providing services for the disabled and mentally ill, The Arc of the Ozarks has experienced growth in clients and employees in recent years. What sparked the increase?
There are a couple main reasons. One was a group of clients who had dual diagnosis, which means they had a developmental disability and a co-existing mental health issue. Those individuals were falling through the cracks. We started a program called Renovations to specifically provide services. We were really the only organization in the state with a program to meet that population so we started getting referrals from all over the state. We were taking people outside our service area and bringing them to Springfield. That led to two years ago, us being asked by the Department of Health to provide services in the Kansas City area as well. We’ve had an office in K.C. for over a year now.

What was the second growth spurt?
Missouri is looking at deinstitutionalization. There used to be a rehabilitation center over in Nevada. They wanted to close that and weave people into the community. That meant we started getting individuals who had some challenging behaviors, many of those on the autism spectrum. We developed an autism spectrum specialty arm that could deal with that population. That has continued to grow. The latest is 1 in 68 are diagnosed with autism. We named that program Counter Point and it too started getting a lot of referrals. It also led to us buying out Rivendale, a school of autism services.

With other offices in Joplin and Monett, Kansas City is an outlier. Is The Arc growing more that direction?
Kansas City is going to grow remarkably. We have tried to monitor growth up there – not grow too quickly. But there are a lot of small organizations there without the capacity to expand. Some are looking to merge in with larger organizations. Originally, so many people were coming down from K.C., that we couldn’t hire enough people in the Springfield area to provide these services to the state of Missouri.

With just over 1,300 employees locally, The Arc is the largest nonprofit in the area. Given the low profile, are people surprised by that?
Because we provide support for individuals and a lot of it is residential, we have around-the-clock care. Another contributing factor is our residential services have changed. In the past, we provided group homes and it’s moved toward more individualized living. It’s a better service for them, but requires more staff. It may take 15 staff for two individuals in an apartment around-the-clock. People don’t realize we have that level of care. Last year, we touched 3,300 lives in different capacities.

Up from last year, your 2017 operating budget is just over $41 million – with $460,000 of that raised locally. Where do those funds come from?
Over 90 percent of our budget is through contracts, so fundraising has always been a small piece. It basically helps cover those needs that fall through the cracks. The large majority of (the budget) comes from a program called Medicaid Waiver, through the state department of mental health. The state has waiver contracts with Medicaid, it’s a matching program.

Mike Powers is president and CEO of The Arc of the Ozarks. He can be reached at mpowers@thearcoftheozarks.org.

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