Mark Hassemer

Mark Hassemer

Dear Friends of ACT:

July 1st marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for us.

This is a good time to look back and give you a Year in Review for our company. (I thought of this the other day when our City Manager provided the State of the City address for Columbia).

I took a look at the newsletters written during the last year and reflected on the journey we’ve taken as a company.

We started the year in a celebratory mood. ACT turned 40 one year ago! We marked the occasion with many activities throughout the year, culminating in a festive event with the CoMo Derby Dames at Father Tolton Catholic High School.

I shared the words that individuals and family members used describing the services provided by ACT. One parent said, “ACT is a jewel in Columbia, something for which our community should be both thankful and proud.”

Later, I talked about the language we use, the importance of our speech, and how word choices can and should reflect the dignity and value of every person. How we speak can diminish or elevate others.

The Show-Me Careers grant produced a video demonstrating the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities. Over 400 business leaders had the opportunity to view the video at a Columbia Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Then I let off some steam. I talked about an injustice in our State pertaining to rates received for providing services. Simply put, the older, established organizations (like ACT) have some of the lowest rates in the State. It wasn’t right, and we were going to do something about it.

The end of year holidays arrived, prompting us to think about all the things in our lives we have to be thankful for. There are many.

With the new (calendar) year, a new legislative session began in Missouri. We carried the message to many of our local legislators about the funding problem. Board members and parents worked with us to explain it. Legislators listened and said they would try to help.

I was grateful for the interest and involvement of Board members and thanked them for their commitment to and support of ACT.

Leaders from the State Department of Mental Health, and Division of Developmental Disabilities visited ACT in the Spring. We shared our experience of changing our organization over the year, closing the facility-based recycling program, and focusing on community employment as the outcome of our efforts. They commended us.

I ended the year highlighting a new Federal rule from the U.S. Department of Labor. Known as the new overtime rule, it changed the compensation threshold for exempt employees. A national association was active, working to convince the Feds to establish a non-enforcement period. After reflecting on this, carving our industry out was not an ideal thing. We will still be held to the new standards. ACT will work toward meeting the new standards.

Let’s look now to the future.

We are building a budget for FY 2017 that includes the new rebased rates. Pending further action by our Governor, these rates should be effective July 1st. I am hopeful. This new level of funding is a game-changer for ACT. It will allow us to retain the work force we need.

While we are pleased with this unprecedented funding, the job is not yet done. We will work to educate the legislature about additional steps needed to complete the job.

The Department of Mental Health and the Division of Developmental Disabilities leadership are committed to fixing the rate problem in Missouri. That will require additional appropriations.

We accomplished some important goals this year. But we have more to do.

As I look around ACT, I feel a positive shift in our culture. We have some new people in important leadership roles we did not have last year at this time. They are settling in and focusing on the future.

Our programs and services will continue to respect, value, and act on the personal choices of the people we serve. Guided by our vision and mission, we will work tirelessly toward an inclusive community, where everyone is valued.

Until next month,

Mark