LINCOLN — Delvin Koch started work three decades ago providing hands-on care and training to residents of the Beatrice State Developmental Center.
Wednesday, the veteran employee was named the new head of the century-old state institution.
Koch, 51, takes over an institution that has suffered through several years of troubles.
They include losing federal Medicaid funding because of continuing problems with abuse and the quality of care and being put under U.S. Department of Justice oversight.
The center regained its Medicaid certification and funding over the past year, only to have five employees charged with felonies in connection with hitting, choking and stealing from residents. Three have since been convicted of felonies, and two pleaded to misdemeanors.
The center cares for about 135 people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Most also have physical disabilities or mental health problems.
In an announcement to staff, Jodi Fenner, the state director of developmental disabilities, said Koch stepped up to the challenges of meeting federal and state standards in recent years.
She said he has led several initiatives to make the center less like an institution and more like a home for the residents. He was the leader in charge of moving toward family-style dining instead of institutional cafeteria-style meals.
“He is better able to support many of the functions at BSDC because he has walked in your shoes, and he understands the full implications of what is being required,” Fenner told employees.
In an interview, Koch said the center has made changes one small step at a time over the past several years. He believes the institution and staff are now ready for federal justice officials to return next year.
“I think they will be very happy with what they see when they come back,” he said. Among the changes are an end to using physical restraints on residents and progress in planning for residents' physical health and nutritional needs.
As CEO, Koch said, he wants to continue working to meet Department of Justice standards, while allowing residents the most independent living situations possible.
He also wants to get administrators out into the living units with residents and staff and to provide an open work environment where employees are free to voice concerns and ideas.
Fenner said Koch was chosen after a national search.
He started at the center in 1980 as a direct care employee. He has worked his way up over the years, taking on more management responsibilities with each step. Three years ago he was named deputy chief executive officer for direct services under then-CEO Dan Howell.
Koch has been interim CEO since Howell's resignation this summer.
Howell, who started at the Beatrice center in August 2009, was paid $167,271. Koch will be paid $98,000 annually.
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