Arkansas Rehabilitation Services said Tuesday it will end its residential program at the Arkansas Career Training Institute by September and plans to be completely out of the iconic building it has occupied in downtown Hot Springs since 1960 by Dec. 31.
Around 120 employees who are connected to residential services at the facility are expected to be downsized as the result of a conversion to a non-residential model, ARS said in a news release and in an interview with The Sentinel-Record.
“ARS is coordinating with the Office of Personnel Management and proceeding with the reduction-in-force process regarding preference for re-hiring affected employees,” Charisse Childers, director of the Department of Career Education, said in the release.
“We are also working with the Department of Workforce Services to provide job fairs, unemployment benefits, career-training, and transition services for those employees.”
The ACTI campus was constructed in the 1880s as the nation’s first Army/Navy Hospital. Control of the facility was transferred to the U.S. Army in 1957, ARS said in a news release.
Arkansas Rehabilitation Services has operated the facility since 1960.
ARS said it is "working with community leaders to identify possible uses for this iconic and historic Hot Springs landmark," which towers above the downtown area from a hillside on Reserve Avenue.
ACTI is currently a 24-hour residential facility where young adults with disabilities receive vocational training in preparation for employment opportunities around the state.
Conversion to a non-residential model will allow ARS to "use taxpayer dollars more efficiently to serve this crucial population," the release said. After hosting a camp for high-school students with disabilities in June, the residential program will end on or before Sept. 30.
ACTI will maintain a physical presence in Hot Springs at the Reserve Street Armory, where non-residential training for high-demand occupations will be offered to ARS clients, the release said.
“ARS is fully committed to supporting the non-residential model to benefit Arkansans with disabilities,” said ARS Commissioner Alan McClain. “Adopting this approach will allow ARS to focus more resources on serving an increased number of students and adults with disabilities and their employment goals.”
In addition to offering non-residential vocational training in Hot Springs, ACTI will expand on the services available to students training in their local communities. These strategies are each targeted to increasing the likelihood of long-term employment at competitive wages for Arkansans with disabilities, the release said.
See Wednesday's edition of The Sentinel-Record for complete details.