Peer agency, DSI to merge: Firms to share resources, save money in plan

Two Indiana agencies that provide services to children and adults with disabilities will merge this fall, creating one of the largest non-profits of its kind in Indiana.

The Nov. 1 merger of Columbus-based Developmental Services Inc. and the Linton-based Four Rivers Resource Services Inc. will save money and resources, but it will not change current client services, according to company leaders at the nonprofit organizations.

DSI will be the umbrella organization overseeing Four Rivers operations, said Tom Harpring, communications representative for DSI.

DSI’s programs will continue with Columbus as headquarters. And Four Rivers’ programs will continue its base and keep its existing name over similar programs in Linton, southeast of Terre Haute, under direct managers based there.

But Shane Burton, DSI’s chief executive officer since 2015, will be the lead executive over both operations, and he will remain based in Columbus.

Steve Sacksteder, Four Rivers’ chief executive officer, will retire in November.

When Burton became the DSI head, Sacksteder praised Burton’s abilities and leadership, since the two have worked together in various ways for the good of clients off and on for 20 years.

DSI currently serves more than 2,000 disabled children and adult clients spread across 44 south-central Indiana counties, Harpring said. He estimated that Four Rivers’ clients will boost that number to about 3,000 total clients, expanding the overall service area to 56 Hoosier counties.

All clients and employees will be retained after the merger, Harpring said.

“It’s basically a step toward taking on the best of both organizations,” he said.

DSI and Four Rivers leaders have been educating staff, clients and their families about the merger in recent weeks.

“So far, we have not heard from anyone with serious concerns,” Harpring said.

DSI’s Burton said the merger should save costs through shared resources such as staff training and administrative support.

“We hope to save (costs) in some areas through efficiencies, but we will not compromise our promise to provide quality services to our clients and their families,” Burton said. “In fact, any cost savings will be invested to enhance client services.

“This initiative, which was the result of many months of insight and input from stakeholders, senior management and board members, makes sense for both organizations in light of a rapidly changing service delivery landscape,” Burton said. “State and federal funding sources are evolving and economic conditions have changed so we must evolve as well to implement more innovative services so that our consumers can find jobs, safe living environments, healthy lifestyles and community involvement.”

Four Rivers’ Sacksteder said the merger makes sense in light of the close relationship the two organizations have enjoyed for the past three decades.

“We’ve considered the folks at DSI close friends for many years,” Sacksteder said. “We’ve shared training and expertise. We’ve advocated for and served many of the same families and our mission is really the same.

“Together, we will be able to offer more comprehensive services to many of our consumers because we can combine program resources and offer more choices as well as share the very best service delivery practices. This union strengthens our ability to support our staff as well.”

DSI and Four Rivers currently provide supported living, group homes, job placement and supported employment, work services, adult day services, preschool, health and wellness, affordable housing and information and referral.

Four Rivers will continue providing public transportation as well.

An example of DSI’s work services is its assistance to Columbus landscape photographer Brandon Boas, well known to many visitors of the Columbus Farmers Market, where he sells his greeting cards.

His mother, Kay Boas, a longtime DSI employee, said her son’s employment services will remain the same after the merger.

Burton commended Sacksteder and the employees of both organizations for a smooth transition.

“Steve has guided Four Rivers since the very beginning and has helped them be a model for service excellence,” Burton said. “Steve has the respect of virtually everyone in the state, not only because he worked his way through the ranks, but because he cares so much about the welfare of citizens with disabilities. It has been his life’s work and his legacy.”

About DSI

Founded: 1975.

Headquarters: 2920 10th St. in Columbus.

Aim: To provide services and supports to people with barriers to attain self-direction, inclusion, personal fulfillment and productivity in all life areas.

Clients: More than 2,000 people with disabilities in 44 south-central Indiana counties.

Information: 812-376-9404 or dsiservices.org

About Four Rivers

Founded: 1986.

Headquarters: Highway 59 South in Linton.

Aim: Enabling individuals with disabilities and other challenges to attain self-dependence and natural interdependence, inclusion in normal life experiences and opportunities, and general life enrichment, by working in partnership with them, their families and the communities served.

Clients: About 1,000 disabled people in 14 southern Indiana counties.

Information: 812-847-2231 or frrs.org