Monday, November 7, 2016

You Cannot Be Serious

I recently came across a blog post from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living. The title of the post, “Tips for Providers Transitioning to an Integrated Employment Model,” brought one thought instantly to my mind: “you cannot be serious!”

Can't see the video? Click here.

Why, in 2016, is this still an issue? Why is the government still offering organizations grants to be doing something that the organizations should have done years ago? Why are sheltered workshops even still a thing?

Imagine! began its first supported employment program back in 1984. Those services, which came eventually to become an integral part of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department, demonstrated clearly that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) could successfully work real jobs for real companies out in the community. We’re still demonstrating that fact today. Plenty of other organizations, both locally and nationally, are doing exactly the same.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, whenever I attended conferences about services for people with I/DD generally and supported employment services in particular, the refrain was constant and consistent: the days of sheltered workshops were over.

And yet, here we are in 2016, and I guess we haven’t come as far as I thought. That unhappy thought made me think of the many other ways that Imagine! has demonstrated that there are better, more effective ways to ensure that the population of people with I/DD have opportunities to become contributing members of their communities. We’ve experimented with family-directed services, family recruited employees, web-based medication prompting and alert systems, web-based family directed case management and service provider selection, and remote monitoring services just to name a few.

Will we have to wait 25 years for incentives to do what should be done today? As a field, we seem stuck in our traditional patterns and I’m not sure there’s a way out. I hate admitting that, but perhaps today I’m just feeling the frustration brought on by the blog post mentioned above.

I know that there are so many chances out there to open the doors of opportunity for people with I/DD. Those of us in the field, the advocates, the providers, and the regulators, shouldn’t be the ones keeping those doors locked shut. Yet, too often that seems to be the case.

Then again, what do I know?

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