CEI Stories

Serving & supporting small business owners just like you.

A Behavioral Health Providers sits with two boys on a piece of playground equipment

October 28, 2019

Black Bear Support Services

What do you when your child needs support services to increase their independence, but there’s no one to provide them?

That’s the question facing the parents of the nearly 300 children in Maine with cognitive impairments and functional limitations who qualify for support services, but are sitting on waitlists. The services, provided under Section 28 of MaineCare, are designed to help children with learning basic daily living skills, improving social skills and/or managing behavior, and early intervention can be vital.

Black Bear Support Services, a qualified Section 28 provider based in Auburn with branches in Portland and Augusta, saw the need and hoped to fill it, but were lacking the staff numbers needed to service additional children.

Black Bear isn’t alone. A June 2018 story by the Bangor Daily News highlighted the challenges faced by support providers throughout the state in finding and retaining a qualified workforce. But Black Bear differed from its peers in two ways: 1) owner Laura Catevenis was determined to fill the service gap and 2) she had a partner in CEI.

Laura first came to CEI as a borrower through the Wicked Fast Loan program, a product designed to fast track microloans of up to $25,000 for existing and start-up businesses with decisions typically made within three business days. Through the lending relationship with CEI, Laura was connected to CEI Workforce Solutions, who understood her need to not only find employees to fill current openings, but to build a pipeline of skilled employees for the future.

CEI went to work addressing the first hurdle by connecting Black Bear’s HR representative with community partners who specialize in helping people find work, including Community Concepts, Goodwill Workforce Solutions, The Root Cellar, Fedcap and Western Maine Community Action.

Still, because the need was so large, Black Bear realized that the most efficient way forward was to train groups of interested individuals together. CEI helped the company access Maine Department of Labor incumbent worker training funds through its partner, Goodwill Workforce Solutions, to train a couple employees as certified Behavioral Health Professional (BHP) and Direct Support Specialist (DSP) instructors.

Our success this past year in doubling our revenue had a huge impact from this program. Our high turnover rate is no longer a problem. We have found eager staff to fill our positions and they are staying because they are coming to us trained or being trained by our newly trained instructors. Our staff are now confident they can do the tasks at hand and stick around when times get challenging. We could not have done this without the help of this program!

Laura Catevenis, Owner Black Bear Support Services

The ability to have onsite trainers is benefitting the company in a couple ways: the specialized training gives the company the flexibility to train groups of workers based on organizational need and client flow. Additionally, it helps employees access training that works around their schedules.

To help create a pipeline of future service providers, CEI brokered a relationship between the company and Maine Quality Centers and Central Maine Community College (CMCC) to develop a training program. Recently approved, the customized behavioral health training program will allow 20 individuals at a time to learn while they earn. The students in the program will begin working at the start of the program to earn their initial certification, while concurrently working towards a year-long certification. Upon completion, student employees receive life-time certification and credit toward a CMCC degree.

As Hunter Cropsey of CEI Workforce Solutions put it, “Black Bear was eager to engage with CEI’s workforce intermediary services enabling them to generate some of their successes we see today.”

Through forward thinking and creative community partnerships, CEI and Black Bear Support Services have not only helped to fill an employment gap, they’ve also responded to an important service need for Maine families.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BLACKBEARSUPPORTSERVICESLLC/


We encourage employers to overcome business challenges by investing in employees and considering changes to jobs that would be mutually beneficial. To learn more about our Good Jobs Strategy, visit https://www.ceimaine.org/advising/workforce-solutions/

For more information on CEI’s loan offerings, including our Wicked Fast loans, visit: https://www.ceimaine.org/financing/

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