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WATERLOO — Exceptional Persons Inc. is exploring partnering with a Clear Lake nonprofit.

According to Chris Sparks, executive director of EPI, the announcement comes as a direct result of dramatic changes in the service and funding environments, both at state and national levels.

“Funding pressures and expectations of Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) in Iowa are causing many organizations to look for innovative ways, such as partnerships, to be strong into the future,” said Sparks. “Our motivation is to keep the promises we’ve made to our customers — to moms and dads, our staff, persons served — to ensure each can count on us well into the future.”

EPI is a private, nonprofit organization which employs about 300 people, providing services to people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or brain injuries in the Cedar Valley, as well as housing the Child Care Resource & Referral of Northeast Iowa. One Vision is a similar agency based in Clear Lake that employs about 600 who serve clients in 30 communities.

“Like EPI, we enter into this partnership to remain a viable provider in a competitive market,” said Mark Dodd, One Vision interim CEO.

“One Vision and EPI were drawn together by our common vision of inclusion, a shared spirit of innovation, and strong commitments to program quality,” Dodd said.

The respective boards of directors have signed a letter of intent and have engaged a consultant. Over the next several months the consultant will guide the boards and their leadership though proper due diligence and consideration of various partnership models.

Sparks said the structure of the partnership is not yet defined, and will be worked on by a committee of board members of both institutions along with a consultant, coming up with a plan by late summer or early fall. He said initial thoughts are that they share some leadership positions and human resources help.

The organizations are also united by their commitment to workforce. With the low unemployment rate in Iowa, organizations such as EPI and OV struggle to find and keep employees. “Both organizations know our employees are our most valuable resource. We need every great staff person we have. We are not looking for efficiencies by way of position reduction. Rather, we see our organizations working together to focus on recruitment and retention of our workforce,” said Dodd.

Sparks said when managed care came in to the state in 2016, there were a few similar agencies merging and more conversations are happening around the state. “There is an inevitability of organizations working together because our environment from the standpoint of funding and regulatory is challenging,” Sparks said.

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