Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Final Thoughts

Written at the top of this blog, from the very first day I started posting on it, was the purpose of its existence. This blog was meant to be a safe zone, where "discussions are open and honest, and new ideas and ways of looking at things are encouraged."

I have tried to live up to those words, which I view as aspirational. I want discussions that involve different ways of thinking because often those types of discussions result in the best outcomes. In fact, sometimes I would post statements that were deliberately provocative to see if a conversation would start. That didn’t always work, at least in terms of public comments (though I did frequently get people commenting to me privately about one thing or another I would post here).

I understand the reluctance of many to make public comments about our field, where the risk of being viewed as out of step with traditional ways of thinking can be daunting. However … as I step off of this platform and away from my position as CEO, I implore my blog readers: ask the tough questions, challenge the status quo, recognize contradictions and point them out, and be willing to poke the bear once in a while.

Our work involves supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in becoming active, contributing members of their communities. That is a challenging task. At Imagine!, we served more than 4,100 people last year. That is 4,100 different personalities, with 4,100 different ways their issues manifest, and 4,100 different needs, goals and desires. That’s just in Boulder and Broomfield counties.

Now consider the number of people across that state and across the nation who have some form of an I/DD, and it seems to me that anyone can recognize that there is no “right” answer to how services should be funded and delivered. We should always be striving to do better, and the only way we can do that is by constantly questioning what we’re doing now.

I’m uncomfortable with any talk of my leaving a legacy at Imagine! or the I/DD world, because I hope that our organization and others will continue to find new and better ways of serving our fellow citizens with I/DD. I hope that any ideas I have will only serve as a starting point and will be supplanted by bigger, better, and bolder ideas of how to create a world of opportunity for all abilities. 

I leave that challenge to you, dear reader, and I thank you for letting me play a small role in modeling what that might look like.

Have fun storming the castle! (link to the very first post on this blog, 9/10/09).

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Good News Friday!

As many readers of this blog are already aware, I am stepping down from my position as CEO at Imagine! at the end of this month. After 35 years at this amazing organization, I’m ready to explore new adventures.

One thing that is making this transition easier is knowing that the person who has been selected as my replacement is someone who I believe will continue Imagine!’s tradition of leadership and innovation, while deftly guiding us into the future.

The Imagine! Board of Directors has announced that Rebecca Novinger (you may remember this post I made when she joined Imagine! in 2012) has been offered, and accepted, the position of Chief Executive Officer at Imagine!. I am delighted by her selection.

During her tenure at Imagine!, Rebecca has held vital leadership roles including Director of Client Relations and Chief Strategy Officer. Her success in those positions, her experience and skills, and her demonstrated commitment to Imagine!, our employees, and especially the people we serve, make her the ideal candidate for this job.

I have had the honor and privilege of working closely with Rebecca for the past few years, and I can say that she is immensely smart, dedicated, hardworking, and creative. Beyond those attributes, I see in Rebecca intangible qualities that I believe will lead to success in her new role. She has the ability to see the big picture while remaining cognizant of the small details. She is empathetic and compassionate, yet retains the practical business sense vital for an organization like Imagine! to run smoothly.

I usually end my blog posts asking "Then again, what do I know?" but this time I'd like to share five things I do know about this transition:

  1. I know Rebecca will face some bumps in the road. I did, as did all of my predecessors in this position. 
  2. I know that Rebecca has the courage and strength of character to manage those bumps while never losing sight of Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities. 
  3. I know Rebecca will have a strong team at every level of Imagine! to support her. 
  4. I know that under Rebecca’s leadership, Imagine! will remain a bright light worthy of emulation in the field of I/DD services. 
  5. I know my blog readers will join me in welcoming Rebecca to her new position.
Congratulations Rebecca!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Technology Tuesday

Touring Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome yesterday: Melanie Zanini, Dr. Heather Woods, Jean Werner, and Whitney and Lindsay Zanini. Heather Suzanne Woods, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Kansas State University. She is doing a study: “The Rhetoric of Smart Home Technological Innovation: SmartHomes as “Living Laboratories.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

Good News Friday!

Last week, one of my favorite events at Imagine! took place: Messy Play Day.

What is Messy Play Day? Messy Play Day is one of Imagine!'s Dayspring department's Community Calendar Activities (CCAs). CCAs introduce young children with developmental delays and disabilities to places in our community that offer great activities and opportunities for children to meet their goals through fun and play. All activities encourage motor, sensory, social-emotional, cognitive, and speech-language development.

Messy Play Day is designed to introduce new sensory experiences to the children in a safe and comfortable environment. Learning occurs as children touch, manipulate, experiment, and talk about things, while interacting with people who facilitate without directing.

But the paragraphs above are just words. Take a look at the video below of some of the Messy Play Day sensory activities to see what the words look like in action.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Technology Tuesday

In late May, Imagine!'s Adult Day Program visited the Loveland Public Library to play with fun tech toys: 3D printing, virtual reality, and Xbox on the big screen! Thanks a million to the library for being great hosts and having fun with us! Melissa used the 3D printer to make that necklace she's wearing and painted it in art class!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Good News Friday!

The opening night reception of the Annual Imagine! CORE/Labor Source (CLS) Art Show at the Dairy Arts Center is set for June 21. Join us for art (there will be an interactive mask making table), music (there will be a performance by CLS musicians at 6:30), and an appreciation of the amazing artists who accept services from Imagine!. The art show, “Masks: How I Feel on the Inside” runs from June 21 – July 14. We’re also very excited to team up with Museo de las Americas for this exhibit!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Just The Facts

This is a blog post about facts.

On July 18, 2007, David Braddock, who at the time was the Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, provided testimony to a Colorado Senate/House interim committee on developmental disabilities.

In his testimony, Braddock argued that Colorado was at a “turning point” in terms of its need to reframe and/or significantly expand its resource commitments for intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) services. Historically, Braddock argued, Colorado’s fiscal effort for I/DD services (spending for those services as a fraction of aggregate statewide personal income) had been significantly below the average US state for 30 years, and that the gap was widening.

Did this powerful testimony help Colorado act on the turning point he mentioned? No. The gap is wider still.

There is plenty of data to support this fact, but I’ll just focus on a few numbers. In 1977, Colorado’s fiscal effort for I/DD services was $2.17 per $1000 of personal income. Nationwide, that number was $2.24. Fast forward to 2015, the last year we have data for this, Colorado’s fiscal effort was $2.29. Nationwide, that number was $4.30. (Just for fun, the top state is investing $9.20 per $1000 of personal income).

In 1977, Colorado was essentially average among states in its fiscal effort toward serving our fellow citizens with I/DD. Now, we are substantially below average, ranked 47th in the nation when compared to other states. Colorado was already poorly ranked when Braddock presented in 2007 (46th), so we have seen a further decline.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s population continues to grow and its economy is consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation, and recently as high as 5th in the nation. So we could have acted at any time since Braddock’s testimony and haven’t.

Who is responsible for our state’s inability to act on Dr. Braddock’s dire warnings over a decade below? Any number of stakeholders could have stepped forward and worked to implement some of his suggestions, including taxpayers, voters, professional advocates, policy makers, legislators, the Joint Budget Committee, and various Governors, but none did. Colorado lacks a true champion for people with I/DD at the decision making level, and it shows.

The turning point in Colorado referenced by Dr. Braddock is still there. It’s not a secret. However, we can still act. The next time you are in a group of people, simply explain this situation and ask, “Are we OK with this?” “Show of hands.” Let’s see if we can discover the conscience of Colorado.

At some point, our state needs to make a decision: is this lack of support for people with disabilities what we want our state to be known for? If the answer is yes, then ethically we should encourage families to shop other states. We don’t need to change anything. If the answer is no, then put the state’s conscience to work; figure out how to enact real, meaningful, and lasting change to its support of individuals with I/DD.

Then again, what do I know?