Stow -- A local non-profit operator of group homes for developmentally disabled people is closing, with nearly 200 employees losing their jobs.

In a March 31 letter to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Dale Ruther, board president of Evant Inc. wrote, "there will be a mass layoff at Evant." which is at 4500 Hudson Drive. Ruther said that "all employees of Evant will be affected."

"This layoff is expected to be permanent," wrote Ruther. "All 198 employees of Evant were notified of their permanent separation from Evant. All separations from Evant are expected to occur on May 31, 2017. Please note that certain administrative employees may be needed after May 31, 2017 for a period of time to be determined by Evant's board of directors, who will perform ongoing administrative duties during Evant's wrapping-up process. These employees will be separately notified."

Evant officials did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking information and comment before press time.

According to Evant's website, the organization started in 1975. In a April 13 email statement to the Stow Sentry, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities spokeswoman Laura Tucker said, "Evant, a private company providing services for individuals with developmental disabilities, is in the process of selling its business to another private provider. The quality of care and continuity of service will be closely monitored during the transition."

Bilie Jo David, spokeswoman for the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, told the Stow Sentry April 13 that Evant oversees 24 group homes of two types in the area, intermediate care facilities owned by Evant to provide for "higher medical care needs" for four to six individuals each, and standard group homes "not owned by Evant" with residents who live more independently with help from home healthcare staff who come to the home. David said the Summit DD Board is more closely involved with this second type than the first, which are licensed and monitored by the Ohio DD.

"There are private landlords who own these [standard group] homes," said David. "The individuals, up to four individuals, kind of pool their benefits and resources and they actually have lease agreements with the landlord and they pay for utilities and things like that."

David said the total number of residents for the two types of homes under Evant are about 40 each.

She said the residents should not feel much impact over Evant's closure.

"We have been working very closely with Evant and Evant's leadership team to make sure that transition for individuals to a new provider has been going pretty smoothly," said David. "Everybody who's currently being served is in the interview process currently to choose a new provider and everybody's going to be able to stay in their homes."

David said, "I can't speculate as to why [Evant's] board made the decision to shut down."

"It wouldn't be unusual, I would say, for a provider to go out of business. This is a larger provider in Summit County, but sometimes these providers do go out of business."

She said, however, that for the last year, Evant has been under a "suspension of their certification by the Ohio Departmenbt of Developmental Disabilities with a proposed revocation of their certification."

"When a provider is under suspension, they are not allowed to bring in new clients," said David. "They are allowed to continue to serve, with some increased monitoring from both the county board and the state."

David said the county's ability in easing the transition for Evant clients is due in no small part to the fact that Summit DD works with about 180 agency providers, which has included Evant, and about 340 independent providers.

"We are pretty lucky in Summit County to have a good pool for quality providers that are stepping up to the occasion and coming in and helping out to make sure that care for individuals works as seemlessly as possible," she said. "It's really important for both Evant and Summit DD that individuals stay in their homes."

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