Friday, July 29, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to share some good news about a young man many at Imagine! know well.

Chris Hensen, who receives services from Imagine!, was recently elected as President of the Association for Community Living’s chapter of S.A.B.E. (Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered). S.A.B.E. works to ensure that people with disabilities are given the same opportunities, occasions to make choices and decisions, rights, and chances to speak up and empower themselves as people without disabilities. Members of S.A.B.E. partake in monthly meetings, elect officers, attend conferences, and have the chance to volunteer as speakers to civic or service organizations, among other things. S.A.B.E.’s local meetings are well attended each month, with 22 very active members.

Chris is also involved in Crisis Intervention Training for police officers at the University of Colorado. Chris provides input to the officers to help the officers to have a better understanding of how they can be of assistance to people with disabilities. “I’ve always had a passion for law enforcement,” Chris says.

Chris is employed at the Outback Steakhouse in Longmont as a member of a work crew in Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source, where his job includes rolling and polishing silverware.

Chris would like to learn how to skydive, and one of his biggest dreams is to skydive into Folsom Field after the Bolder Boulder, carrying a flag with the S.A.B.E. logo on it.

Chris, I really hope I get to see that one day. Congratulations and keep up the good work. You are an inspiration!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good News Friday

Today I'd like to honor the 10th Anniversary of the Imagine! Foundation.

The Imagine! Foundation raises funds locally to provide extensive support for the more than 2,600 people with developmental disabilities (and their families) served by Imagine!, primarily in Boulder and Broomfield counties.

The Foundation has raised more than $4,000,000 to date!

Equally important, in my view, is the fact that the Foundation offers a great way for community leaders to become involved with our organization and make a real difference in the lives of local citizens who don’t always have the tools and resources they need to become contributing members in their communities.

Looking back at some of my older blog posts I realized, much to my chagrin, that I have never shared a video we made to commemorate the Imagine! Foundation’s 10 years of supporting our mission. The video debuted during our 10th Annual Imagine! Celebration Dinner and Auction, held last January.

So to correct that oversight, the video is below. It is well worth your time to take a look.

Thanks to the Imagine! Foundation for all they have done in the past ten years!

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

Some of my friends are aware that I often return to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to reinvigorate my roots, "refresh my page", and seek out a little solace.

While getting about, sometimes I am fortunate enough to find myself on a one lane dirt road (that picture to the left is one such road I often travel). Driving a one lane dirt road is an exercise in trust. You trust that oncoming traffic will do the unwritten right thing, like pass on the right giving you half of the available road. Like not take a half of the road out of the middle. And to do so at a reasonable speed.

We call this understood, not under-regulated. The system is built on trust. This system is intended for the few, not the many. For if this travel was intended for the masses, it would bigger, wider, faster, and full of regulation.

Medicaid is intended for the few, not the masses; the road less traveled as I see it. A person would think it would be accompanied by the appropriate level of regulation.

Instead, here is where the regulatory equation fails. In this case the road less traveled, the one lane dirt road, has signs, lights, and even painted lanes that are scuffed and washed away with every change in the weather.

Make sense? Not to me.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good News Friday!

Imagine! is delighted to have been chosen as the non-profit beneficiary of the upcoming Mary Williams Fine Arts “Quick Draw” event on July 24 on the grounds of a beautiful private estate in northwest Longmont.

During the afternoon approximately 40 of the Rocky Mountain Region’s most prominent painters will be challenged to create an original piece of artwork within a 90-minute period. At the end of the 90 minutes, the paintings will be auctioned off in a silent auction in an on-site gallery. Additional paintings from each of the artists will be available for purchase in the silent auction. Twenty percent of the sales of both the “Quick Draws” and the other artwork will go to Imagine!. In addition, Mary Williams Fine Arts will donate two framed reproduction “antique” posters, with all proceeds from the sales going to Imagine!.

Several community members have already stepped up to make donations to the event. Dave Query and the West End Tavern will donate all of the food and catering, Liquor Mart and Vine One will donate the wine, and Left Hand Brewing Company will donate the beer. Save-the-Date cards are being donated by Forrest Fleming at Instant Imprints in Longmont, and Sturtz and Copeland will provide flowers. Kristi Bartleson Stahli, a harpist from the University of Colorado School of Music, will complete the festivities. For more information, contact Mary Williams at 303-938-1588.

Want to get a sense of how cool this event this is? Check out the video below.

Many thanks to Mary Williams Fine Arts for their generous support of Imagine!’s mission.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Size Does Not Fit All

There’s a common saying among those of us who work in the field of developmental disabilities: “If you’ve met one person with a developmental disability, you’ve met one person with a developmental disability.”

Last year at Imagine! we served over 2,600 individuals and their families. In each case, the needs, goals, and desires of the individuals and their families were different. In each case, the disability (or disabilities) manifested themselves in distinct ways. That is part of what makes working in this field so challenging and yet so interesting and exciting at the same time – to see how we can use our skills, knowledge, and resources to serve so many unique individuals.

Despite that reality, our field is overrun with the kind of thinking that one size does in fact fit all when it comes to funding and delivering services for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Whether it is the idea that a single entry point for services is an effective and efficient way to get every person served the best services possible, or the idea that the Medicaid system is capable of meeting all the needs of those we serve, we are too often surrounded by a simplistic approach to funding and delivering services that doesn’t take into account the many, many differences that exist among the individuals we serve.

This kind of "siloed," “one size fits all” thinking also exists within organizations that serve those with one or more developmental disabilities. We recently discovered a case of this happening right here at Imagine! (which is why I’ve been thinking about this topic lately).

I believe that organizations such as Imagine! simply cannot be effective in fulfilling their missions if they are stuck in this kind of thinking.

What if we were all required to drive the exact same kind of car? It wouldn’t matter if it was a brand new Bugatti Veyron (the most expensive street legal car available on the market today) or a 1981 Buick Skylark. People simply wouldn’t go for it. People choose the cars they drive for all sorts of reasons, and nobody wants to be told they can’t pick the car that best matches their means and their wants.

So if the idea that a person can’t have choices when it comes to something as simple as the car they drive is unthinkable, why, then, is it so easy for us to accept a lack of choice when it comes to the way we fund and deliver services?

One size does not fit all. It is time to stop pretending that it does.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good News Friday!

A little over a month ago, I mentioned that some members of Imagine!’s executive team were traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with some of Colorado’s legislators and to discuss issues surrounding the funding and delivery of services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities.

While there, the Imagine! team met with staffers for: Representatives Jared Polis, Diana DeGette, Mike Coffman, Ed Perlmutter, Cory Gardner, and Scott Tipton, and Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.

Although I wasn’t entirely sure of what the result of these visits would be, I have already been pleasantly surprised by the positive outcomes we have seen due to our visits.

For example, on Monday, June 27, Representative Polis toured Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder to see first hand how technology is offering new and efficient ways to deliver services to some of our most vulnerable citizens. Representative Polis asked some very insightful questions during the tour, and we appreciate his time and thoughtful engagement. In the picture to the right, SmartHome resident John (right) greets Representative Polis (center) and one of his staff members. You can see more pictures from the visit here.

Another positive result from our visit is demonstrated by the letters we were able to obtain in support of Imagine!’s application for a HUD Section 811 grant. If we are fortunate enough to receive this grant, it will help us build a new home in Broomfield that will serve people whose needs change as they age and who have one or more developmental disabilities. This is a rapidly growing population, and the need to have homes designed to meet their unique needs is becoming ever more pressing. We asked for, and received, letters of support from Representatives Gardner and Polis (who serve the two districts where Imagine!’s services are also concentrated) as well as letters from Senators Bennet and Udall. You can see a copy of Representative Gardner’s letter below.

This example of bipartisan support clearly demonstrates that the issues surrounding the needs of those with one or more developmental disabilities resonate at the highest levels, irrespective of party affiliation. It also demonstrates the importance of establishing relationships and lines of communication with our national leaders to ensure those issues aren’t forgotten or ignored.

Many thanks to all the staff members we met with while out in D.C., and to Colorado’s national legislators on both sides of the aisle who recognize the importance of looking out for all of Colorado’s citizens.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Good News Friday!

This coming Monday is Independence Day, when people all across the country will celebrate their freedom.

Independence and freedom have a very special meaning to those we serve at Imagine!. People with one or more developmental disabilities face barriers to independent living not only because of their disabilities, but sometimes, because the communities where they live don’t provide enough opportunities for them to truly succeed and declare their own independence.

So today, I’d like to share a story that recently appeared in the most recent edition of the Imagine! employee newsletter, written by one of the individuals we serve here at Imagine!. In the story, Karen Juhl (pictured to the right) describes her feelings about moving out on her own when she was young and the sense of freedom, independence, and responsibility that came with that move.

In just a few short paragraphs, Karen verbalizes in a very powerful way something many of us take for granted.

Moving from home is the best. I moved out of my mom and dad’s house on March 3, 1972. My mom ended up packing all of my clothes and put them in boxes, then she took them to the car. She didn’t tell me she put them in the trunk, but that is okay.

You have to have a lot of money to move out. And you have to have a lot of different jobs and meet different friends. I had a CU job at the Alfred Packer grill, and then I worked at Walmart and Pizza Hut. Then I retired. You get to go to all these apartment houses and you get to chose one to live in.

Once you move out you don’t see your mom and dad every day. You also don’t call them as much. It is time to get your own things and save a lot of money for it. And buy your own things without asking your mom and dad.

Thanks mom and dad for having me, for raising me, and for putting up with me. It all worked out just fine.

Thanks Karen, for sharing, and thanks to all the employees at Imagine! who work hard every day to ensure that all those we serve are able to be as independent as possible.