Friday, March 15, 2019

Good News Friday!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared how the community would be coming together to celebrate IDD Awareness Day in downtown Denver. Imagine! employee Jason Kingsbury, 2018 Alliance DSP of the Year award winner, made us proud by being a guest speaker during the banquet. Check it out below.

Imagine! residential counselor Brett Osborn, who was nominated for the Alliance DSP of the Year award, Imagine! CFO John Nevins, Imagine! Board of Directors member Bella Larsen, and Colorado State Senator Mike Foote also joined in on the fun.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Important Programming Note

As my career in the I/DD field begins to wind down, I still find there are a few subjects that I’d like to be on the record as having voiced my opinion.

Today, I’d like to return to a subject I frequently discuss – language use and how it is reflected by, and sometimes influences, services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Many moons ago, when I was new to this field, there was a substantial movement away from housing folks with I/DD in institutions and toward integrating them into the community. This was a great movement and one I am proud to have been witness to and participant in.

As these individuals were moved out of the institutions, a common corollary question was, “Well, what kind of life do these individuals want to lead now that they are living in their communities?”

Almost everyone coming out of the institutions who I asked that question answered in some variation of, “I just want to be treated the same as everyone else.”

And yet, even at the embryonic stage of community living, language was being used to blunt that simple desire. Supports being delivered were being described as “training” or “programs.”

The problem with those terms? They indicate that someone needs to be fixed – they need to be “programmed” or “trained.” They emphasize what a person can’t do.

But advocates and self-advocates would continue to tell me that they didn’t want to be programmed. They didn’t want to be trained. They wanted to focus on the things that they were good at doing and that they enjoyed doing. I think we all feel that way – we don’t generally spend huge portions of our lives trying to fix what’s wrong with us, instead, we emphasize our strengths.

To this day, it frustrates me when I hear the work we do at Imagine! described as a program or as training. At Imagine!, our goal is to emphasize possibilities. We offer services, not programs, and we try to teach, not to train. Programs and training are regulatory and stifling, services and teaching are aspirational and goal oriented.

Language matters, and I offer my opinion on this particular language challenge fervently and unapologetically.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Technology Tuesday

Imagine! has an assistive technology class for folks in our CORE/Labor Source direct services. Last week, the class took a field trip to the Apple store in Boulder to create their own Emojis on iPads!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to thank the good folks at NetApp, who recently turned a team building exercise into a creative way to support Imagine!’s services for children. Check out the short video below to learn more.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s latest Out & About Centre Stage performance is scheduled for March 8 at the Dairy Arts Center.

Learn more about Centre Stage here, and please join us next Friday for what is sure to be an amazing event.

By the way – Imagine!’s Out & About Center Stage program is selling t-shirts this year. This fundraiser will help support our mission of bringing the arts into the lives of individuals with disabilities. Click here and buy your shirt today!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Good News Friday!

Alliance, a nonprofit, statewide association of Community Centered Boards (CCBs) and Program Approved Service Agencies (PASAs) dedicated to strengthening services and supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), is hosting its annual I/DD Awareness Day Luncheon on February 27th.

Imagine! will be well represented at the event.

For starters, Imagine! employee Jason Kingsbury will be giving a presentation at the event. Last year, Jason was selected as the Alliance 2018 Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year, and was asked to return speak at this year’s event to kick off the announcement of this year’s winner.

If you saw Jason’s acceptance speech last year, you know he’s going to do a great job this year. If you didn’t see the speech, you’re in luck, because I’m sharing a video of it below.

We also have a couple of Imagine! nominees for this year’s Alliance DSP of the Year award as well:

Brett Osborn

Here’s what the nomination had to say about Brett:

Brett has a heart full of care and compassion for all of the individuals with whom she works. She has made it a personal goal to get to know them well so she can be the best support and advocate possible. The results of this goal are plain to see. For example, Brett spends a lot of her time, on and off the clock, helping people when they’re in the hospital. She makes sure the hospital staff understands how to communicate with the individuals she serves and also makes a point to visit them and bring them personal items that will make them feel more at ease. Brett keeps a cool head in crisis and makes sure that everyone is safe and informed. Brett’s focus on each individual and their unique needs and desires makes her stand out among the rest of her colleagues. 

Hailey Schauer

Here’s what the nomination had to say about Hailey:

As Imagine! works to help implement new technology to increase their independence and quality of life, Hailey has not only been on board with trainings but has leaned in to do more. She has learned how to assist not only those whose tech plans have been assigned to her but everyone in the home where she works. She has also spent time working with every individual to determine what they need and what they want to get out of technology, and has proposed changes or new plans for how technology can be used. In addition to the work she does with the individuals she serves, Hailey also makes it a priority to help train other staff so that they can assist individuals in the use of their technology. 

The winner of the 2019 Alliance DSP Award will be announced at the I/DD Awareness Day. Regardless of the outcome, Imagine! and the people we serve are winners just for having Brett and Hailey around.

Learn more about all the amazing Colorado DSPs nominated for this prestigious award.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to thank the awesome kids, teachers, and administrators at Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette. For the second year in a row, they are raising funds to support Imagine!’s Out & About program, specifically so O & A can purchase a hand controlled adaptive bike. The bike will allow more children with disabilities served by Imagine! to experience the joy, freedom, and independence that comes from riding a bike.

Go Rhinos!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Where Are Your Champions?

Misheard lyrics from popular songs have been a source of entertainment for years. You can find many YouTube videos dedicated to this very topic.
Recently I had my own version of a misheard lyric. It wasn’t technically a misheard lyric, but rather, my brain filled in an incorrect lyric when I was listening to a song while thinking about the State of Colorado’s system of funding and delivering services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The song? "We Are The Champions" by Queen. My misheard lyric? “Where are the champions?”

Now, of course I know the real lyrics. But as I was listening, I was thinking about a revelation I had come to recently: why doesn’t Colorado consider itself a champion of people with I/DD? Of course, Colorado supports those individuals, but is it possible the State champions a different master? Specifically, the Federal government and Medicaid?

That’s perfectly understandable. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are essentially the customer, telling the State what to do and how to do it with their Medicaid dollars. So of course, the State looks to its customer in order to determine if it is doing a good job delivering customer service. 

And guess what? By CMS standards, Colorado probably is doing a good job. The State is focused on homogenizing and cutting costs at the behest of CMS and has made nice work of it. The State is the champion of Medicaid. That is not the same as being a champion of people living with I/DD in Colorado funded by Medicaid, or any other group of Medicaid beneficiaries.

Here’s a comparison. Think about a hypothetical athletic director at a major university; similar to an Executive Director of a State Department. That person should select and hire champions of each sport at the university; coaches who are experts in their event, who in turn select student athletes who are good performers in their event.

Why? That is what the fans and supporters want; the best coaching staff and players of each individual sport, be it swimming, track and field, or football.

What you wouldn’t do is hire a champion of uniforms to cost effectively outfit all of the teams with the same uniform because it would save money. It doesn’t matter that the swim team was wearing a football jersey when they dive in the pool. It matters that the champion homogenized the uniforms to cut costs. Or imagine a champion of balls; insuring there are adequate game balls, but not necessarily assigned to the appropriate game. Why? The champion isn’t and expert on the game – just that the balls are inflated properly.

While the AD needs to respond to and pay attention to his or her budget, and to NCAA rules and regulations, that shouldn’t be the primary drivers for champion roles. Winning more games draws more attention and revenue, the desired outcomes. Wearing the same uniform in all events will not accomplish the same, any more than a football on a golf tee. I think the results would be average athletics at best.

The AD wouldn’t be looking for the best coaches or players, they would be looking for the most affordable transactions in the athletic department. They wouldn’t be stretching the limits of the teams and what they could do, they’d be limiting their ability to stretch. They wouldn’t be trying to make teams stand out, they would want them to all look and play the same. The school’s athletic teams would regress to the middle at best, and the bottom at worst, because the desired outcome in sports – performance – wouldn’t be part of the policy making process. Have you seen the trends reported by the 2019 UCP Case For Inclusion?

In our State, I wonder if, by successfully being a champion of Medicaid, have we have lost the winning performance we once knew? Rather than being a champion of people and selecting performers in specific fields of expertise, we have homogenized transactions and outfitted providers with uniforms that say, “Go Medicaid!” and players with I/DD blended on teams of people with a variety of other health care needs.

I’d argue (and have argued before) that for providers, what I think should be our version of winning – positive outcomes for those we serve – isn’t a big part of our State’s policy making process. State providers are like the coaches and players for the hypothetical college mentioned above that makes all of its decisions based on budgetary and regulatory concerns.

(Cue the music) We are Champions of Medicaid; promoting cost cutting and homogenization. Again, have you seen the 2019 UCP Case for Inclusion? We don’t have an I/DD champion, and our team needs one.

(Cue the music again) Where are their champions?

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer a big shout out to the South Boulder Lucky’s Market. Thanks to many of you voting online, Imagine! was selected as one of this quarter’s (February 3-May 25) Lucky’s Bags For Change partners!

For my readers who live in the area, I’d sure appreciate it if you were to make a shopping trip or two to Lucky’s (located at 695 S Broadway St. in Boulder) over the next couple of months so you can participate in this fun and environmentally friendly way to support our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Here’s how it works: when shoppers bring in their reusable bags, they can choose to receive $.10 back per bag credit or donate that amount to one of the three Bags For Change partners, including Imagine!. Even better: when a shopper donates, Lucky’s Market will match the donation and double the giving to the nonprofits! Make sure you bring in your reusable bag so you can start dropping dimes to support the three partners.

Thanks Lucky’s for your demonstrated commitment to your community, and thanks in advance to all of you who help out by shopping at Lucky’s South Boulder!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Not Preaching To The Choir

As I mentioned last week, our most recent Imagine! Celebration was a success by almost any measure.

In the post linked above, I listed several measures of success. But today, I’d like to share another measure of success – how many people in attendance were not part of the I/DD world.

I have often found that at fundraisers for non-profit organizations (not just those that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities), the audiences tend to be primarily insiders – that is, those whose lives are closely tied in with the needs of the organization itself. In the I/DD world, this may mean family members, services providers, regulators, etc.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Of course the people who have the biggest stake in a non-profit’s work are likely to be the ones who most vigorously support that work. However, if part of an organization’s goal is spread the word about their work and its importance in the community, the risk of a segregated and insider audience is that there is an element of preaching to the choir, and it is likely that the message is not getting beyond those who have already heard, received, and believe in the message the non-profit is sending.

I have always said that the work Imagine! does is essentially a community building endeavor. That community can’t be built if only one segment of the community is part of the construction crew. It takes a village. That is why I was so excited to look out across the ballroom during the Imagine! Celebration and see so many unfamiliar faces. It’s the people I didn’t recognize that I was happiest to know that they were joining us. Many of the new attendees were young professionals or business and community leaders from different sectors who weren’t very familiar with our work. They weren’t the choir – they were new to our message, and to our mission.

The message we shared at the event was one that I think resonated with an audience that wasn’t comprised mainly by those already aware of our work. We didn’t describe the individuals we serve as “vulnerable.” Using a word like “vulnerable” doesn’t emphasize possibilities. It doesn’t highlight strengths. It promotes what people are not. It doesn’t do anything to move us forward in the effort to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Instead, during the entire evening of the Imagine! Celebration we emphasized what people with I/DD can do.

That message was no more clear than in the video debuted that evening telling the story of Shelly, who accepts services from Imagine! (I’ve shared the video below). Despite the many challenges in Shelly’s life, in this video you won’t hear words or phrases describing how sad it is that Shelly uses a wheelchair or that her disabilities prevent her from leading a fulfilling life. Instead, you’ll hear phrases like “no stranger to danger” or see clips of her schussing down the slopes of a local ski area. 

To be clear, I deeply appreciate the support of the people who have been part of the Imagine! family and the Imagine! Celebration for years. And I hope it continues for many more. But they already know that people like Shelly can, and do, live fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose. Sometimes folks outside of our little bubble aren’t as aware of the capabilities of a person like Shelly. If we can share that lesson with them, we can get ever closer to truly creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Good News Friday!

The preliminary results are in, and by almost every measure last Saturday’s Imagine! Celebration was a huge success! Between sponsorships before the event, and the money raised at the event, we raised a total of $462,087! This is $30,000 more than last year!

Below you will find videos from the amazing evening.

To introduce the crowd to Imagine!, a short overview of our work started the evening off right.
A little later in the program, a short video was shown to demonstrate the impact of Imagine! donors and how those funds are used to help create fulfilling lives of possibilities among the people we serve.
The last video was certainly not least. As is the case every year, the evening featured the debut of a video highlighting an individual in Imagine!’s services. This year the person highlighted was Shelly, who lives in Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont and accepts services from CORE/Labor Source. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the video was shown, and Shelly received a lengthy standing ovation when she came up on stage.

Now, some “thank yous” are in order.

Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors President Don Brown served as the MC for the event, and he nailed it! His hard work and preparation showed in his smooth and passionate delivery of a very mission-centric program.

Imagine! Board of Directors member Bella Larsen joined Don on stage at the beginning of the program, and her speech, full of joy and humor, won the crowd over instantly.

Elena Ciaravino, Program Director for Imagine!’s Out & About department, spoke to the crowd on a very personal level about how the support of Imagine!’s many generous donors helped to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Auctioneer Gary Corbett kept the evening flowing and the bidding rising.

Katie Hawkins and the Imagine! Celebration Committee have clearly hit their stride – the time and effort put into the pre-planning of the event clearly showed throughout the evening.

Imagine!’s PR of Fred Hobbs and Scott Wendelberger were heavily invested in the creation of the program, and were instrumental in its success.

Imagine! IT Director Kevin Harding ran the show, switching frequently between videos and PowerPoint presentations without ever missing a beat.

Elizabeth Hill and Caroline Siegfried served as trouble shooters for the evening, and both handled the role with amazing calm and aplomb.

Heather Sabo was the hero of the behind-the-scenes night. She and the staff volunteers faced some unforeseen challenges and she, and they, handled it with grace and perseverance, always keeping the guest experience front and center.

Speaking of staff volunteers, close to 30 Imagine! employees gave up their Saturday evening to volunteer at the event, a powerful testament to their commitment to Imagine!’s mission.

And of course, Imagine! Foundation Executive Director Patti Micklin, who begins work on next year’s Imagine! Celebration almost immediately following the conclusion of the previous year’s event, was the mastermind behind a record setting year in terms of money raised, but also in terms of sharing Imagine!’s mission and awareness of the amazing contributions people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are bringing to our community every single day!

Finally, thank you to the more than 480 attendees at the Celebration. They gave and gave, and I am so appreciative of their support of our mission and of our fellow citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Technology Tuesday

Today I’d like to share a couple of blog posts from the good people at SimplyHome. SimplyHome designs and installs customizable remote support systems that empower independent living for people who are aging or who have disabilities. As such, they have their finger on the pulse of how technology can be used to improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), as well as the challenges of implementing these technologies in a system of funding and delivering services that doesn’t always seem to conducive to such efforts.

In the posts, they discuss the term “Technology First” and what it means, and then tackle how to get started down the tech path. They are well worth reading. Check them out below.

Technology First: A Growing Movement in I/DD Services (Part 1) 

Technology First Movement, Part 2: How to Get Started 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Good News Friday!

It’s no secret that organizations like Imagine! are having a tough time recruiting Direct Support Professionals to help create a world of opportunity for all abilities. I have written about this challenge before.

However, one of the things that inspires me about working for Imagine! is the many ways that we come together as a team when facing challenges, and how we look for unique and creative ways to solve our problems.

One way we’ve been working to alleviate our workforce shortage is through hosting job fairs and open houses, where potential employees are invited to visit our work sites, meet potential co-workers, and take advantage of on-the-spot job interviews.

In the past few months, we’ve hosted several of these events, and the early returns are promising. It won’t solve all of our workforce issues, but it sure helps.

We have several planned for the coming weeks, including job fairs for our Adult Day and Employment Programs, our Residential Program, and for our Summer Camp for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Details for these upcoming events are below. Feel free to join us or share the information with someone who might be interested in a career with meaning.

And if you can't make it to one of the fairs, check out our jobs page here.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Good News Friday!

The Imagine! Celebration, set for Saturday, January 26, brings together 500 guests and Imagine!'s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities. Guests enjoy dinner, a silent and live auction, as well as inspirational stories about people with intellectual disabilities in our community. Funds raised support Imagine!'s programs and services for people at every age and stage of their lives. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails and silent auction, and the program and dinner begin at 7 p.m.

Here are some links if you want to learn more:

Please support our many generous sponsors.  

Get a preview of our live auction

See photos of previous Imagine! Celebrations

An event like this takes a tremendous amount of work. I want to thank in advance the Imagine! staff members and volunteers who work so hard to make the night memorable, and to help create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

PS – the event is pretty much sold out, but there may still be a few seats available. If you are still interested in attending and supporting Imagine!’s mission, email Imagine! Foundation Director Patti Micklin.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Case Closed? I Hope Not

I have been waiting for a while, fearing what the results might be, and my fears have been justified.

The most recent “Case for Inclusion” has been released, and it shows definitively that Colorado is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to delivering services to our fellow citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The "Case for Inclusion," presented in partnership between United Cerebral Palsy and the ANCOR Foundation's Included. Supported. Empowered. Campaign, is a comprehensive data tool that examines how well programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are serving residents with I/DD.

So how does Colorado rank? The report puts us at #27 – just a little below the middle. “That’s not so bad,” you might say. Well, in 2015, we ranked at #6. That’s a big movement, going the wrong way. 

There’s more to those numbers. According to the 2015 edition of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities’ “The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities,” which tracks nationwide financial and programmatic trends in I/DD services, Colorado ranked 48th in the nation in terms of fiscal effort for I/DD funding. And yet we ranked 6th in outcomes, so we were providing a great ROI through our work. That does not seem to be the case anymore.

We’re not getting any better when it comes to spending on I/DD services in our state, either. Colorado per capita spending on I/DD services has not kept pace and in fact declined in the last year of available data:

2012 - $71 
2013 - $71 
2014 - $75 
2015 - $80 
2016 - $77 

And Colorado's fiscal effort, already dismal when compared to other states, has seen spending per $1000 of personal income decline since 2012. 

2012 - $1.57 
2013 - $1.49 
2014 - $1.48 
2015 - $1.53 

But here’s a surprise: I’m not using this space to gripe about those results. In fact, I see an opportunity in the data above. Colorado has just elected a new Governor, and with that election I see a chance to work with him on changing the narrative above. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein that said, “Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results?” I see a chance to NOT repeat some of the mistakes that have been made over the past few years and to explore ways to return Colorado to its former status as a state that consistently delivers great outcomes through its I/DD services, even with limited resources.

To be clear, I’m not saying we don’t need more funding. But there are many opportunities to review and revisit how we were funding and delivering services in ways that have demonstrably worked in the past, but whose efficacy has been undermined by several years of poor and disjointed policy making and oversight.

The Case for Inclusion has been made for Colorado in 2019. It isn’t a good case. But the case isn’t closed, and we can change it to improve the lives of our fellow citizens with I/DD. It will take hard work and a thoughtful process, but the path to get there is right in front of us.

Then again, what do I know?

PS – here’s a great way to view Case for Inclusion results and analysis on a single web page.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Technology Tuesday

Touring Imagine!’s SmartHome in Longmont yesterday: local business leaders Joel Broszat, Debbi Stapp, and Susie Hajek.

They are pictured below along with Imagine! Ambassador extraordinaire Leona Stoecker and Imagine! “Tour Guide” Chris DiRosa.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Good News Friday!

A shout out today to Zach and Dylan for being featured in this year's City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Winter Activity Guide. These gentlemen accept services from Imagine!'s adult day program and volunteered once a week for the City of Boulder this past fall.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Vote Imagine! For Lucky’s Market South Boulder Bags for Change!

Imagine! has been nominated for Lucky’s Market South Boulder Quarter 1 Bags for Change partnership, and you can help by voting for us! 

Here’s how it works: voting runs from January 7th through January 14th. The three organizations with the most votes at the end of the voting period will receive Lucky’s Bags for Change donations for the upcoming quarter.

The vote will exist in the form of a SurveyMonkey survey. Be sure to choose "South Boulder" for the market you frequent when prompted.

Here is the link to vote!

During the voting period, please feel free to share the link above on your social media channels as much as you’d like. Increased visibility and awareness of the post is incredibly helpful in gathering votes, which in turn will help us create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Good News Friday!

Another Imagine! Holiday Gift Giving Drive is in the books, and yet again I am amazed at the generosity of our community. Check out the short video below to get a “wrap-up” of this very touching example of the season of giving.