Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 29, 2000

ATHC expanding in Hutch, but will remain in Winsted

By Jane Otto

"We're not leaving Winsted," said Steve Wilson, director of Winsted's Adult Training and Habilitation Center (ATHC).

If there's one message Wilson would like to get out to the community, that's it.

ATHC, which provides services for adults with developmental disabilities, is growing. It will soon have a second home in what was the Hillyard Floor Care Building, on Highway 7, Hutchinson. ATHC will complete the purchase of the 16,000-square-foot structure June 20.

"Winsted's building is strapped for space," said Wilson. "It's time to stretch out, be in two communities, continue to do what we do and do it well."

Numerous requests to be in that part of the county coupled with the fact that 52 of the 100 adults that ATHC services live in Hutchinson, Glencoe, and Brownton, were impetus to make the change.

Costs to transport adults to the Winsted facility add up. Wilson said ATHC receives money from the state ­ per diem for each client.

"We've got to make it happen with that amount of money. If gas goes up, you hope it's in your budget to allow for price increases," Wilson said.

About 25 adults presently in Winsted will move to the Hutchinson facility at the end of the year. Eight of the 39 employees at ATHC live in Hutchinson and will work at the new facility. Wilson, himself, will rotate between the two facilities.

Wilson said the move is good for Winsted.

"We're doing this because we had to turn people away because of space constraints. Now, we'll be able to build up our consumer base here," said Wilson.

Western McLeod County is in need of such a facility, said Wilson. The closest one at present is in Litchfield.

Hutchinson will be a satellite of the Winsted agency, but will operate under a different license number. The reason being, said Wilson, is if the Hutchinson facility has any financial challenges, it won't affect Winsted.

Money is a factor in just about any kind of business venture. Wilson said he's presently working with a grant writer to pay for the remodeling costs of the Hillyard building.

Remodeling, which is set to start Sept. 1, consists mainly of some exterior work, restrooms, a lunchroom and bringing building within ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance. He said the structure is in excellent condition.

Money raised from ATHC's annual golf tourney will help with the start-up costs. The tourney, which is set for Monday, June 19 at ShadowBrooke, has brought in over $8,000 in the past two years, said Wilson.

The Hutchinson agency will be licensed to handle 40 adults. That will give it growing room for 15 more. The new facility is large enough to handle more than 40, but state licensing fee is based on the number of adults for which you license. Wilson said when they get close to 40, they can reapply.

The Winsted agency is licensed for 115 adults, but at 100 people, Wilson said that they are busting at the seams. The license for Winsted will probably be changed to 85. With 25 adults going to Hutchinson, that will leave room for 10 more.

There's ample room for growth, but Wilson pointed out that they don't just accept adults to bring up their numbers.

"We accept only those who will benefit from us," said Wilson.

ATHC works a lot with area school districts to see which adults they can service best.

ATHC also has worked with the community to inform it of ATHC's plans. Several public meetings were conducted in April. Wilson said a good mix attended ­ guardians, local business people, residents and providers.

Wilson said that up to that point, rumors were flying that ATHC was leaving Winsted. He said there were a few questions at the meetings, but the main response was, "It's about time."

Wilson said the support has been overwhelming.

Being from a small community himself, Wilson wants to be upfront about what ATHC is doing.

"I encourage people who have questions or comments, concerns, to just let me know," Wilson said.

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