May 24, 2022
Dear Venture Together Family:
I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the emerging Spring weather. It’s been a while since we’ve provided a written staff update. We would like to share information on what’s happening at Venture Together.
I am happy to report that we are on track with distribution of the DSP Workforce Stabilization payments (the first of three payments was made on Friday 5/20). As you know, the funds are being provided by the State of NY (OPWDD) in recognition of direct service staff working throughout the COVID pandemic. These are “pass-through” funds for the agency, which we are happy to distribute. While we would like to provide payments to all of our staff who worked tirelessly throughout the COVID pandemic, we are required to follow OPWDD mandated strict instructions regarding the calculation and distribution of the OPWDD Workforce Stabilization payments.
On a related note, we are awaiting confirmation on the specifics of a “cost of living increase” (COLA) included in the recently passed NY State budget. Once implemented, I look forward to working with our Executive Team and Board to review our salary structure and invest in our employees, where possible, to ensure that we remain the “employer of choice”. In the short term, we recently prepared and distributed 2020 and 2021 total compensation and benefits statements to employees. These individualized statements demonstrate the true financial value of employment with Venture Together and reflect our commitment to our employees.
Additionally, based on employee input, we recently implemented a pay differential for eligible employees with AMAP (Approved Medication Administration Professional) certification. This pay differential recognizes eligible employees who perform this valuable work in addition to the requirements of their job description.
Switching gears, it’s unfortunate to report that COVID is starting to uptick again at Venture Together. During the last month or so, we have had nine staff test positive (residential, day hab, com hab) and five individuals in our care test positive (residential, day hab). Unfortunately, despite vaccinations and boosters, our community continues to encounter occasional ‘waves’ of COVID. Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that all staff and individuals who have tested positive in recent weeks are navigating and resolving the virus with manageable symptoms.
Operationally, Venture Together remains strong and is further strengthening our service delivery through implementation of an electronic health records (EHR) system (Precision Care). The rollout of this software began in our residential segment (thank you Horan House for being the initial site!) and the plan is to expand it shortly to our day hab segment. Although it can be a challenge to implement any new software, especially in the health records, tracking and billing area, I am confident that staff across the agency will ultimately value the transition from manual processes and paper billing to more streamlined, automated processing.
Finally, I want to provide an update on our increasing focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in our workplace. As articulated after the tragic death of George Floyd almost two years ago, our Executive Team intends to go beyond “empty statements of solidarity” regarding race and social justice. We are committed to do something different, more meaningful and more impactful in this area. On the heels of the recent racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo NY — a continuing reminder of the hatred that exists in our world — I am happy to report that our DEIB efforts continue through anti-racism training for senior staff, front line managers and Board members, monthly facilitated conversations about race and social justice among staff and management and, shortly, the formation of a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee comprised of select Board, Senior staff and employees at Venture Together. I believe this work is making Venture Together a better organization and one more able to discuss and navigate sensitive issues of race and social justice in the workplace and beyond. We strive to create an organization where diversity is increasingly recognized and honored and the field is leveled for all who want to advance. Ideally, Venture Together would be the type of organization where staff truly feel a sense of belonging, in the context of the important work we do. This would be a heartening representation of the concept of “family” which we often communicate about at Venture Together. As always, we welcome any input you may have about our DEIB initiative, whether positive or developmental.
In closing, I want to thank you for your steadfast commitment and service to Venture Together. I know these are trying times — from current agency staffing shortages to operating in a community where COVID ebbs and flows to navigating continuing divisiveness at the local, national and global levels. Nonetheless, staff continue to demonstrate love, service and commitment to the individuals in our care. For that, you have my utmost admiration and respect.
Matt Shelley and the Executive Team
Matthew Shelley, Chief Executive Officer, (845) 624-5401
Celia Solomita, Chief Financial Officer/Chief Administrative Officer, (845) 507-4070
Marie Pardi, Chief Program Officer, (845) 624-5324
Alice Kayser, Chief Compliance Officer, (845) 624-5407
Lisa Kirrane, Chief Human Resources Officer, (845)624-3864