Friday, February 25, 2011

Good News Friday!

Looking for a great way to spend this evening?

Here’s an idea: take in the final performance of Out & About’s Centre Stage theater class! The play they'll be performing is called "A Walk in the Park,” written for the group by Centre Stage facilitator, Prema Rose. Participants and staff alike have been working really hard to create a successful production and they would love to see all of you there!

Here's the key information:

Where: The Armory at Brighton Cultural Center 
300 Strong Street, Brighton, CO 80601

When: Friday, February 25th at 7:30pm

There will be a reception following the performance.

Out & About’s Centre Stage class introduces participants to the basics of theater and drama. Each activity focuses on integral aspects of theater including set design, acting, costume design, singing, dancing, choreography, lighting and more.

Like all of Out & About’s classes and activities, Centre Stage focuses on learning, teaching and having fun, and creates as many opportunities as possible for people to engage in challenging and meaningful activities. Out & About emphasizes abilities and positive individual choices, while also promoting each participant’s health, safety, inclusion and well-being.

I encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to see some of the folks served by Imagine! sharing their talents and skills. Congratulations to everyone who made it happen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good News Friday!

This past Wednesday was Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the State Capitol. Representatives from Imagine! and dozens of other organizations that provide services for people with disabilities across the state assembled hundreds of individuals with disabilities, their families, and direct care professionals to rally state legislators.

The event, hosted by Alliance, was designed to highlight the issues facing people with developmental disabilities in Colorado.

The message of the event was a simple one: “we are contributing members of our communities.”

I believe that message was heard loud and clear. The many legislators who met with self-advocates and providers, or who attended the luncheon at the Denver Art Museum, listened intently to inspiring stories about just what individuals in services can bring to their communities if given the opportunity.

One of the highlights of the day was the announcement of the Alliance 2011 Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year. Two of the nominees this year work for Imagine!: Matt Mock and Meagan Witt (pictured to the left). You can read more about them (and some other Imagine! Employees of Distinction) by clicking here. While neither Matt nor Meagan ended up taking home the award (that honor went to Melissa Rodriguez from Arkansas Valley Community Center), they share some qualities with Melissa and all of the nominees: a willingness to go above and beyond what is required of them, an ability to see solutions where others see only barriers, and most importantly, a deep and unyielding commitment to the individuals they serve.

So congratulations to Matt and Meagan and all the DSP of the Year nominees for being honored for their hard word and dedication, congratulations to Alliance for hosting another powerful and meaningful event, and most importantly, congratulations to all who attended DD Day at the Capitol. Your message is important and it deserves to be heard over and over again!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thank You, Gov. Hickenlooper

On Tuesday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper submitted his spending plan for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The plan calls for significant cuts to many programs across the State.

However, his plan did protect services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities, and for that I want to offer my sincere appreciation.

Those of us in the DD field are well aware of the incredible challenges facing the State budget process during this down economy, and have accepted and adapted to substantial cuts in funding over the past few years. However, the system has been strained to the limit by the cuts, and the threat of further cuts was cause for much concern about the ability of our State’s dedicated service providers to continue to provide safe, quality services.

So from all of us at Imagine!, thank you, Governor Hickenlooper, and your entire administration for protecting some our State’s most vulnerable citizens. We are “on board” with your promise to make a government that is essential, more efficient, effective, and elegant. Our goal at Imagine! is to help the individuals we serve aspire to, and achieve, a fulfilling life of new possibilities. Your assistance in protecting that goal is invaluable.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We Want To Hear From You. Really.

One theme I have touched on several times in this blog is the need for organizations in our field to begin using contemporary methods of collaboration and public participation.

The era of small groups of people making decisions in closed door sessions that have profound and lasting impact on those we serve is rapidly coming to an end, thanks to the proliferation of Social Media and Web 2.0 tools. I for one welcome this change.

We are certainly trying to explore these new tools at Imagine! so we can better reach, engage with, and serve our community.

Here’s our latest example:

Each year, Imagine! hosts a community forum to encourage all of our stakeholders, including consumers, family members, donors, providers, representatives from funding agencies, and the community at large to meet with us and let us know what they think. If they have questions, concerns, or comments about what is happening at Imagine! and would like to know where we are headed, this is one way we try to solicit feedback.

This year’s event is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 22, from 5:45 to 6:45 PM at Imagine!’s John M. Taylor Conference Center.  Representatives from Imagine!’s staff and Board of Directors will be on hand to answer questions and receive input.

But of course, not everybody will be able to attend the forum in person. People have busy lives and it is not always easy to fit something like this into already packed schedules. That is why this year, we are offering several ways for people to take part in our forum using some new online tools.

For those who can’t attend in person, the event will be streamed live – you can access the live streaming by clicking here. Not only will you be able to listen in to the forum, you’ll also be able to follow along with the PowerPoint I will be creating as part of the forum. And we’ll capture that live stream and PowerPoint presentation and leave it up on the Imagine! website after the forum is over, so they can be accessed any time by interested parties using the same link.

We’ve also set up a way for people who can’t attend to still participate beyond just listening to the live stream. Click here and you’ll be taken to an online form that will allow you to submit your questions remotely either before the forum or during the forum. You can submit the questions anonymously if you prefer. You can also let us know if you’d prefer to be answered directly, rather than during the event.

Or, to make it even simpler, just leave a comment or question on this blog post and I’ll respond to that as well. You can also do that anonymously if you prefer.

I encourage anyone interested in helping to shape the future direction of Imagine!, or asking a question about services, or just saying “good job” to take part in our forum using one of the methods I listed above. You don’t have to reside in our service area, either. We really want to hear from you!

To help guide your comments and questions, here are a few key subjects that will be discussed during the forum:

Colorado budget issues and their impact on services:

It is no secret that Colorado has a $1 billion shortfall next fiscal year. We plan to have a picture on Tuesday of how this will likely effect services for citizens with developmental disabilities from early intervention through adult services.

The shape of service delivery in the future:

We know our current funding sources are not sustainable. We also know we cannot rely on the State’s current system of support to address the growing need of people who need support. There are alternatives that need to be explored such as remote monitoring systems, practical use of available technologies, flexible use of current resources, and improved long term planning.

State Conflict of Interest Task Force:

The Task Force has completed its work including a report of recommendations. The State Departments of Human Services and Health Care Policy and Financing have indicated their desire to move forward with their Task Force’s recommendation. We believe it is in the best interest of all who receive case management services from Imagine! to fully understand the implications (both positive and negative) of those recommendations.

I hope that this is just the beginning of Imagine!’s use of new online tools that will allow for greater collaboration among all of those we serve and who are impacted by what we do. I can only see positive benefits from more input from stakeholders as we move forward in these challenging times.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Dr. David Braddock, Ph.D., who was recently named a 2011 recipient of the University of Colorado's Thomas Jefferson award, one of the university's highest honors. David is Executive Director of CU's Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and has been a longtime friend of Imagine!.

Thomas Jefferson himself once said, “I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.” If that is the case, then David Braddock must be one of the happiest people on earth, because he has dedicated his career to “doing good” to others. His support of Imagine! over the years provides a perfect example of that dedication.

His role as a pivotal partner with Imagine! can be best demonstrated by his significant involvement in the development of our two SmartHomes, which use a variety of technologies to improve the lives of the residents who live in the homes. The SmartHomes also act as laboratories to test and refine technologies that may be used in family homes to increase independence and community access for individuals with cognitive disabilities.

David’s involvement with Imagine! and our SmartHomes has been substantive, and reflects his deep commitment to building partnerships between the University of Colorado and local and national communities. He has also been a strong and participatory supporter of Imagine!, generously highlighting our achievements as he speaks around the country, and has been a vocal advocate in promoting change through dissemination of research and development.

Learn more about David and this prestigious honor by clicking here.

That’s David in the picture to the right, along with his wife Laura, at the recent Imagine! Celebration Dinner and Auction.

Congratulations David, and thank you for all you do for individuals with developmental disabilities locally and across the nation!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It’s A Family Affair

It’s a family affair.

No, I’m not talking about the 1960s sitcom that “explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment.”

Nor am I talking about the 1971 number one hit single by Sly and the Family Stone.

The family affair I am talking about is neither as charming as the TV show nor as funky as the song.

The family affair I am talking about is the responsibility that families who have a child with one or more developmental disabilities are facing. Whether that child is currently under 18 or already an adult, considering the current landscape of services in Colorado, more than likely it will be the family who will bear the responsibility for caring for the child for a large portion of their lives. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this landscape will be changing anytime soon.

That is why it is so important moving forward that families have a source of information, and a strong advocate, that they can trust. There are plenty of sources out there, including advocacy groups, providers, and of course, Community Centered Boards.

Now, Imagine! is designated as one of 20 Community Centered Board (CCB) by the State of Colorado’s Department of Human Services. We’re a lot more than that, but that particular role is the important role in relation to the point I’d like to make in today’s blog post.

In 2013, Imagine! will be celebrating its 50th year of providing supports and services. Imagine! was started by a group of families who wanted the same opportunities for their children that everybody else had. Since that time, family involvement has always been a fundamental part of how Imagine! operates. We continue to be guided by the unique perspective of family members who volunteer and serve on our Board of Directors, family members who serve on committees such as our Family Support Council, and family members who come to work for us. With their guidance, we proudly act as advocates for those we serve as well as sources for local information for all stakeholders in the DD system.

There are a handful of voices in Colorado who would lead one to believe they are not fond of the CCB system in Colorado, despite all indications that the overwhelming number of people we serve are satisfied with the performance of Imagine! and desire the local availability of resources and information. Some of those looking for a change are public servants entrusted to make decisions to best meet the needs of those we serve. This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Families can be overwhelmed by the amount of information they receive when struggling to navigate the complex system of funding and services in Colorado. If navigating that system is a family affair, then Imagine! has been a proud family member for close to 50 years. We were created by families and we are guided by families. I take issue with anyone who questions the efforts we have made and continue to make (as both a CCB and a service provider), guided by and on behalf of the individuals and families we serve, and I especially take issue with anyone who suggests our system, which was created by the grass roots of our communities, has anything but the best interests of those we serve in mind.

I am already seeing signs that the new Colorado Governor Hickenlooper administration is aware of the issues surrounding the funding and delivery of services for some of our State’s most vulnerable citizens, and is looking for new solutions. I welcome that change and stand ready to collaborate with them so we can ensure that the individuals we serve can get the services and supports they need to become contributing members of their community.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Good News Friday!

As proud as I am of Imagine!’s talented and dedicated staff members, and our innovative and community-based programs, I know that ultimately our success does not result solely from our efforts. For the individuals we serve to really benefit from the tools and supports we provide, they need to put forward a tremendous amount of effort on their own in order to truly achieve fulfilling lives of quality and independence in their homes and communities.

That is why I am so proud of Imagine!’s 2010 Consumer of the Year, Dawn Marie Candaleria-Bisgard. As you will see in the video below, Dawn has not always made the best choices in the past, but in recent years she has really put forth a tremendous effort to turn her life around and become the outstanding young lady she is today.

Dawn stands as a role model for all of those we serve at Imagine!, all of us who work at Imagine!, and indeed, the community at large. I am honored to know her.

Congratulations Dawn, and thanks for all of your hard work.