KANDIYOHI — A “plethora” of challenges has led the board of directors of KandiWorks Developmental Achievement Center to end its operations and dissolve the organization.

“It is with great sadness ...” stated executive director Joan Macik in announcing that the board of directors voted unanimously July 28 to dissolve the nonprofit organization. With sites in Kandiyohi and Atwater, KandiWorks DAC provided habilitation services for adults with developmental disabilities in the rural portions of Kandiyohi County.

The closing affects roughly 80 clients, as well as approximately 30 full- and part-time employees.

Macik said she will now be working with the Kandiyohi County case managers of the clients to find other options for them. She admits it will be difficult as there are few other options available.

The KandiWorks Developmental Achievement Center's rural service area is among the plethora of challenges the organization has been facing, according to Harlan Madsen, chair of the board of directors and a Kandiyohi County commissioner.

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Madsen said the DAC served clients from an area reaching to Sunburg and to the Swift County border near Kerkhoven. State promises to improve transportation funding for these clients never materialized, adding to a financial drain that has made it impossible to continue, he said.

Madsen said the organization has been seeing losses in the neighborhood of $36,000 to $37,000 each month, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a four-month suspension of most services.

He said the challenges have been building over the last six to seven years. The biggest has been the rate of reimbursement the state provides for the services. Madsen said DACs across the state have made “zero headway” in obtaining reimbursement rates that match actual operation costs. “We’d have to double the rates if we are going to break even,” he said.

Madsen said a developmental achievement center in the metropolitan area with 600 employees recently closed due to the same fiscal challenges. “This is statewide,” said Madsen. “Every single DAC is going through this. Covid exacerbated the situation.”

Client numbers have also been decreasing in rural areas, he said. The developmental achievement centers are reimbursed based on hours of service to clients.

A federal program, Employment First, has also served to discourage center-based employment programs.

KandiWorks DAC clients were provided habilitation and socialization opportunities at the day centers. Eligible clients also were part of work teams that performed cleaning services for area businesses, and there was an on-site production program in Kandiyohi.

Many of the contracts for cleaning services were lost due to the pandemic and the need to reduce social exposure at the locations. The cleaning services were being provided in care facilities with populations vulnerable to COVID-19 and businesses where employee health was likewise a concern.

Madsen said KandiWorks had also been seeking state help for a $156,000 deficit, but was unsuccessful.

The organization has restructured, laid off employees and taken a variety of steps in these past years to survive the challenges. Each time, another setback emerged, he said.

“You get set right back to where you were before,” he said.

Rather than spend the last reserve dollars and prolong the demise, Madsen said board members decided it was time to act.

“It’s making a prudent, difficult decision but making the right decision for all individuals concerned,” he said.