Rising to the Challenge of I/DD Funding During a Global Crisis

By Sara Porcaro | Aug 4, 2020
Finance, CFO, Rhode Island, Disabilities, IDD, Funding, COVID-19, Crisis

At Perspectives, our mission is one that everyone in the agency takes seriously, and the front-line workforce--our Direct Support Professionals--are working hard every day to safely deliver services to individuals we support. But working behind the scenes to support everyone, individuals receiving services and employees alike, is one that, in most agencies, doesn't often get the limelight: the Finance Department. At the head of the department, celebrating 20 years with Perspectives this summer, is Chief Financial Officer Frank DiRaimo. Today, we're looking back at his time with Perspectives, as well as his view on how his team has risen to the challenge during the economic upset that has come with COVID-19.

A Look Back in Time: 20 Years of Service

It was the summer of '86 that Frank received his Bachelor's of Science in Business Admininistration. From there began his journey as an accountant, as he soon found employment with Sullivan and Co. and worked there for several years, performing audits of private entities before switching to doing personal and business taxes. However, what he didn't know was that one client--Perspectives President Dave Ruppell, who Frank did audit and tax work for--would one day invite him aboard to the Perspectives team.
On coming to the agency, Frank says, "Back then, reimbursement policy and Perspectives as a business were very different. The ability for Perspectives to stay stable with the regulations on funding at the time was impressive, and Dave was one of the leading voices to turn the funding system around to be more accessible."
Working alongside Frank is CEO Judy Niedbala, who relies on his knowledge of the agency's finances and funding to make decisions about current and future operations. She also sees firsthand the difference he, and his team, make for the individuals receiving supports; Frank and the Finance Department work tirelessly to make sure that services are billed correctly, that payroll is always out on time, and that working individuals' taxes are properly filed.
"Frank is that guy that always goes the extra mile," Judy says, "and he's constantly looking for how we can get the best funding for individuals we support and our professionals. I count on him for everything. I always ask his opinion before making decisions, and so many people in the agency rely on him; we're all thankful for the work he does."

Standing Strong And Weathering The Storm

The pandemic has certainly made questions of funding much more crucial to address, and Frank and his team are always ahead of the game. Whether turning out multiple payrolls for the supplemental pay for our front-line workers, quickly adjusting to new billing rates, or completing applications for multiple federal and state funding grants--as well as logging the expenses and their use--the whole Finance Department is working harder than ever to make sure that the agency stays in top shape.
"I have a tremendous team," says Frank. "They work hard, they know what they're doing, and they've really stepped up to the plate to support each other in breaking up the work. Normally, things like billing are so routine, but the extra forms, applications, and other new steps to get funding are cumbersome."
However, the workload has increased far beyond the everyday routine, and it has taken a great amount of communication and perseverance from the team to manage the financial ramifications of the shelter-in-place. Since programs like community-based day services could no longer function, the state and federal relief funds, as well as the money to raise wages for front-line workers in residential programs, was critical, and the extra steps to acquire, distribute, and track those funds continue to increase the workload--but with such a dedicated team, the rest of the agency is standing strong and weathering the storm.
"It's nice to realize we're so integral [as a department]," Frank says, as his peers in other facets of the agency have continued to show their gratitude for their efforts. "We're just doing our jobs, but we're making sure we do everything we can to help out our front-line workers and the individuals we support. I can't thank my team enough for all their work."

Finance Flexbility: How Rhode Island can Open the Door to Innovative Offerings

When Frank came to Perspectives, one thing that stood out to him was the innovation Dave brought to the world of I/DD services; Perspectives was, and still is, a pioneer of cutting-edge services across adult and youth services, with a variety of specializations. "I was impressed with Dave's interest in venturing out to different service areas," he notes. "It's made Perspectives one of the biggest agencies offering Youth and Family Services, and one of the first to provide services within school systems."
Now, the opportunity is here in this increasingly digital age to explore the potential of telehealth services. In Youth and Family Services, Clinical Supervisors Karen Nault and Melissa French have found no shortage of uses for online lesson plans, as not only does the social distancing keep everyone as safe as possible, it also allows them to explore topics of internet safety and online researching--as well as virtual exhibits and experiences from all over the world--previously unavailable to in-person groups. However, the question lingers: will the state of Rhode Island continue to allow billing for these services when the pandemic ends?
"Technology is advancing; people can live more independently and can access new and helpful services because of it," Frank says. "It'd be a great thing if it stayed, but we don't know if Rhode Island will keep funding it. We can only hope they do."
All of our eyes are on the front-line workers during this pandemic, and their work is the backbone of our hospitals, shops, human services, and so much more. However, the unsung heroes are there, too--working tirelessly to make sure that those doing the direct work get the support they need to keep protecting and serving their communities. We're grateful to Frank and the Finance Department for all of their incredible efforts in making sure that the quality services Perspectives delivers continue to make an impact on the lives of individuals we support!


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