INSTITUTE CLOSING: Residential center housed in historic Army-Navy hospital. Credit: Encyclopedia of Arkansas History.

INSTITUTE CLOSING: Residential center housed in historic Army-Navy hospital. Credit: Encyclopedia of Arkansas History.

Some 120 jobs at the Arkansas Career Training Institute in Hot Springs apparently will be eliminated by the coming closure of a residential training program for the disabled.

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The residential training program, housed in a historic Hot Springs building, has been a part of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services. The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record first reported today that some 120 employees connected to the residential program will be “down-sized” by the end of the year. There’s a program for high school students in June and the newspaper reported that most of the job losses are to occur by September. It’s unclear how many of those workers might find different jobs in the state agency.

Charisse Childers, director of the Department of Career Education, made the announcement in a news release. She’s been tapped to head the reorganized Division of Workforce Services when it becomes part of the cabinet-level Commerce Department July 1.

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The program, housed in the former Army-Navy hospital, trained young adults with disabilities. Its closure will lead to more efficiency in providing services, the state said. The training program will continue to offer non-residential training for “high-demand occupations” in the Reserve Street Armory in Hot Springs, the newspaper reported. The state said it also hopes to expand job training in other communities. There are no immediate plans for use of the old hospital building.

Disability Rights Arkansas issued a statement applauding the decision. It said it was a “step forward” in reducing use of large institutional settings for people with disabilities.

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From a release:

DRA has been vocal in our criticism of ACTI over the years. We have long advocated that Arkansans with disabilities would be better served by redirecting federal dollars toward programs that train students in their local communities. By making the decision to close residential services at ACTI, [Rehabilitation Services Commissioner] Alan McClain and Director Childers have made a very positive step toward increasing
competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities in our state.”

UPDATE: I originally wrote that these appeared to be the first casualties of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s government reorganization plan. Chip McAfee, director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Career Education, objects.

You say “Some 120 jobs at the Arkansas Career Training Institute in Hot Springs apparently are among the first casualties of the government reorganization plan that Gov. Asa Hutchinson pushed through the legislature.” This statement is not factual.  The decision to convert ACTI to a non-residential model has been looked at and discussed for several years and is not connected with Governor Hutchinson’s Transformation Bill at all.  The change was based on numerous factors, including campus maintenance cost and student outcomes.  It was decided that the tax dollars dedicated to maintaining the facility would be better utilized providing additional services to Arkansas Rehabilitation Service’s clients around the state.

So it’s just coincidental that the changeover will come after the transformation law takes effect and at the direction of a newly promoted division director.

I still predict that these job cuts will be among the savings included when the Hutchinson administration tallies up “efficiencies” produced by the new law.

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