Last updated: June 17. 2014 11:26PM - 1526 Views
By James O’Malley jomalley@civitasmedia.com



Pierangeli
Pierangeli
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The Arc will rally to press for aid, page 12A.



Some said they wouldn’t let it happen, but in the end, nothing done could save United Rehabilitation Services.


After 56 years, the organization will close the doors of its three offices for good today.


Formed in 1958, URS helped people with disabilities reach “the highest possible level of physical, mental, vocational and economic functioning,” according to its website, through work therapy and employment programs, as well as social and recreational services.


The closure will affect close to 250 individuals with disabilities and about 50 URS employees, said Chief Executive Officer Joe Pierangeli.


Nearly every client, he said, has already made arrangements to work with other agencies in the area. Many of those who haven’t are of retirement age, he added, and have made the decision to leave the workforce.


“I’m very grateful that the impact to our clients will be minimized,” he said.


The changes have been traumatic for clients, many of whom have been visiting URS for years, he said. The nonprofit organization has facilities in Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Tunkhannock.


Pierangeli also said other agencies are considering many URS workers for employment. He said he hopes to continue working in the mental health field as well, as it’s what he “was born to do.”


After URS announced in March it would likely be closing, state Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski and Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, said they would seek additional funding for the organization.


But URS employees received notice on April 16 the agency would close in June.


“Although I’m very appreciative of all the guidance and support we’ve received,” Pierangeli said, “there was no remedy.”


URS blamed a 2012 rate reduction by the Department of Public Welfare for its financial difficulties.


“I’m disappointed we couldn’t maintain and save URS,” said Pashinski. Toohil echoed his comments.


As a former public school teacher, Pashinski said he has seen firsthand the demanding work done by caregivers in the mental-health field. The people at URS, he said, displayed the same commitment, sometimes making decisions for the benefit of clients that were bad for the bottom line.


Though Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said today’s closure is unfortunate, it should not create a lasting void in the types of services its provided to Luzerne County.


“It appears that there are other providers who are going to step up,” he said.


The transition for URS clients to the new providers should be seamless, Pashinski added, but further cuts to human services in the upcoming state budget may imperil the livelihood of workers in the field.


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