Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A New Model For Your Consideration

Readers of my blog know that I am constantly suggesting that it is time to look at new models of funding and delivering services to individuals with developmental disabilities. I say it so much I’m beginning to sound a little like NBC’s Ann Curry:

Now, I haven’t come to this belief by accident, and I want to make it clear that I’m not expecting everyone else to do all the heavy lifting in terms of discovering new solutions.

Here at Imagine! we have already designed and implemented several programs with a stated goal of providing quality services that go outside of the traditional models of service delivery that have gotten us into the mess we’re in now.

An example is Imagine!’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program.

In 2004, working closely with the Autism Society of Boulder County, Imagine! created this unique program designed to offer flexible and responsive services to improve the living situation of local children who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The program is simple. Qualifying families receive an annual allocation of funds for three years. These funds are directed toward focused services designed to treat specific areas of need, providing a pathway to improved social and emotional skills and an enhanced ability to participate fully in the community.

The ASD program is extremely cost-effective. Online registration and web-based service management significantly reduce administrative costs.

The program is also designed to best meet families’ needs, operating on a self-determination model that puts families in charge of determining what resources they use. Families get a monthly statement, similar to a credit card statement, showing what services they ordered.

Now entering its sixth year, the ASD program has proven to be a huge success. Currently more than 55 families in Boulder County are enrolled in the program, and the feedback has been very positive. For just one example, a mother whose son was enrolled in the program recently told us,

“This has been so important to the development of our son as his school becomes harder and his social life becomes more complicated.”

Another mother told us,

“As a graduating parent, who has utilized the Imagine! ASD program for the past three years, I found the process innovative and easy to use. It’s as easy as ordering from a menu. This opportunity allowed my child to receive the much needed services that would not otherwise have been affordable to us. I appreciated the flexibility of the program in matching my child's changing needs.”

My point here is not to brag (at least too much) about the program. In fact, I don’t claim it is perfect. But it has several very important strengths that are worthy of exploring, including the ease of use, the community collaboration, the family-directed nature of the services, and the extremely low cost.

To take this model and apply it to other areas of service delivery in our field would not be difficult. The resulting cost savings would allow us to serve more individuals (and serve them just as well or even better than we are serving them now), a critical need considering the number of people currently waiting for services here in the state.

Imagine!’s ASD program is just one example of a possible alternative to the system we have now. There are others. We owe it to the individuals we serve to start looking at those new models right away, before the crisis in our State reaches a point where lives are endangered by our inability to serve some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Then again, what do I know?

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