Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Back to School(s)

The other day I was flipping through my television in a never ending quest to see what else was on, and a came across the classic Rodney Dangerfield movie “Back to School.” I tuned in just in time to see the scene where he executes the “Triple Lindy” off of the diving board.

The scene always cracks me up, not because the scene itself is funny, but because the stuntman who is actually doing the dive doesn’t look very much at all like Rodney Dangerfield. The editing between actual shots of Rodney and the stuntman make that fact abundantly clear.

Anyway, it started me thinking (again) about how those of us in the DD field could greatly benefit from some outside perspectives on to solve some of the difficult issues we are facing – specifically, we could use some input and assistance from the academic world (the movie was Back to School, after all). Perhaps some outsiders, without a dog in the fight, might be able to help us find a new and better way to do things.

At Imagine!, we have taken some small steps in that direction. For example, our Case Management department recently brought on an intern to help create and conduct a survey of families in our area who have a loved one with a developmental disability who is currently on a waitlist for services. The survey was conducted to assist us in the process of determining what needs Imagine! can meet for that large and ever growing list of individuals who are eligible for services but have no funding for those services.

Our Dayspring department also utilizes interns from the University of Colorado and Colorado State University for assistance with therapies for some of our youngest consumers with developmental disabilities and delays.

Going a step further, our Out & About department has developed an entire internship program, partnering with universities across the country to place interns at Out & About in the fields of therapeutic recreation, education, sociology, and psychology. This program has a positive impact in two ways. First, Out & About is able to stay abreast of the latest advances in the field and use that knowledge to continually refine its community-based programs. Second, the interns have an opportunity to learn in one of a very few non-clinical settings using community-based recreation for people with developmental disabilities and to use that knowledge as they move forward in their careers.

We aren’t associated with colleges and universities just through internships, either. Colorado WIN Partners, a University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine program, is currently studying the impact technology is having on the quality of life for the residents of our Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome.

We also collaborate with the University of Colorado’s Assistive Technology Partners and have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with CU’s Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

As pleased as I am with our efforts to date, I feel as if there is so much more that could be achieved through using our nation’s system of colleges and universities as a resource in addressing some of the vexing issues we face in the DD world. Those of us at Imagine!, and those of us in the field across the state and the nation, need to do more outreach to the academic world in our search for solutions. In particular, wouldn’t it be a great study to determine from our national and state efforts, what is the most cost effective funding and service delivery design available? We know states design services based on available Medicaid resources to allow services to be delivered in the least restrictive environment. Is this the most effective use of available resources?

I am aware of many universities that have staff members or even entire departments specializing in intellectual and developmental disabilities, unfortunately, I am often surprised that this subject matter is not a point of academic interest.

So why can’t we collaborate with the academic world to study an issue such as how funding streams work in the DD world, and have the researchers suggest new options and approaches? Clearly, this is a problem that has confounded us in the field in the past, and has led to some of the big issues we are facing now. Potentially, collaborating with an outside party would offer those of us in the field a fresh perspective, while at the same time afford a team of academics the opportunity to have a genuine impact on such an important issue. I will drill down into this issue with more curiosity next week.

Many opportunities exist for partnerships for those in human services fields and those in academic circles. We need to work toward creating those partnerships now to benefit us all.

Then again, what do I know?

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