Friday, May 27, 2011

Good News Friday!

Last February, Out & About’s Centre Stage theater class presented a play called "A Walk in the Park,” written for the group by Centre Stage facilitator, Prema Rose.

Feeling bad because you missed your chance to see the play? Not to worry. Some Out & About staff members were on hand to videotape the entire play, which you can see below in three parts.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mr. (And Mrs.) Imagine! Go To Washington

In early June, some members of Imagine!’s Executive Team are traveling to Washington D.C. to attend The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) 2011 Conference: Leading Cultures of Innovation and Advocacy. There are several reasons for us attending beyond the opportunity to network and learn new ideas from providers from across the nation: a couple of our team members will be presenting at this prestigious conference, and Imagine!’s very own Linda Rogers will be on hand to receive her award for being selected as ANCOR’s Direct Support Professional of the Year for the state of Colorado.

We thought we would take advantage of the opportunity to meet with some of Colorado’s legislators while we were in our nation’s capitol. We have been arranging meetings and it looks like we will be able to meet with several of our State’s Senators and Representatives when we are out there.

While we are finalizing those details, we have also prepared some brief talking points about issues surrounding the funding and delivery of services for individuals with developmental disabilities that we think warrants attention at the highest level. Today, I would like to share those ideas with you. You can read them below.

But don’t just be a passive reader! Let us know what issues you think our State’s leaders should be aware of. Feel free to comment below – and you can comment anonymously if you prefer. The more we can hear from interested readers, the better prepared we can be when we’re making the rounds in the halls of Congress.

Here’s our current talking points:

Medicaid is the lifeline for most people with significant disabilities, including developmental disabilities, as it is the largest funding source for healthcare and long term supports. Colorado has seen considerable cuts to funding for Medicaid services over the past several years. This has resulted in a decrease in services for individuals with developmental disabilities. If Medicaid funding continues to be the only option for individuals with developmental disabilities, Imagine! encourages Colorado and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to consider the financial, economic, and service impacts of future decisions when considering substantive changes.

Over the past five years Colorado was mandated by CMS to change from a case rate (bundled rate) funding system, managed by not-for-profit community boards, to a fee-for-service system managed at the state level. This change has resulted in a reduction in both the quality and quantity of supports, increased administration costs, increased regulation, and budget shortfalls. The current CMS models do not effectively support individuals with developmental disabilities.

We do not support the current proposal to block grant Medicaid funding. Block funding will negatively impact funding for future services and increase already large waiting lists.

Instead, Imagine! supports the service options identified in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Community First Choice Option, because it encourages person centered approaches that are an alternative to more expensive institutional level care.

We believe further federal research and better data collection is warranted to develop a long term approach that focuses on cost effective and outcome based models to better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, as well as to address concerns of growing waiting lists.

Imagine! encourages the use of more technology in service provision. Technology has been shown to be a cost effective method to support consumers, families, and service providers in meeting health and safety needs, as well as enhancing activities of independent or supported daily living. In addressing the use of technology, consideration must be given to offering incentives that encourage providers and families to use technology, along with provisions for clear reporting requirements of outcomes when implemented.

In order to help build the case for incorporating technology into services, Imagine! has designed and constructed two SmartHomes. The SmartHomes provide permanent housing for individuals with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities. The SmartHomes are serving as a model for the future of care for people with cognitive disabilities.

We support the recent efforts to encourage the use of electronic health records (EHR). There is an increasing amount of research that demonstrates the benefits of EHRs. The recent incentives were primarily for clinical sites. We believe that expanding these incentives to community based long term care services would prove equally beneficial.

Conflict Free Case Management
Imagine! is aware of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and its references to structural changes for states. One of the subjects brought up in the suggested structural changes is conflict free case management services, including development of a service plan, arranging for services and supports, supporting the beneficiary (and, if appropriate, the beneficiary’s caregivers) in directing the provision of services and supports for the beneficiary, and conducting ongoing monitoring to assure that services and supports are delivered to meet the beneficiary’s needs and achieve intended outcomes.

We support the concept of conflict free case management, realizing this may assume many different forms.

We would like to see service planning as close to the end-user as possible, as well as case management services delivered in the most efficient and effective method possible. Therefore, we do not support any Federal initiative that would require separating case management from other types of service provision, which would likely result in more costs to an already cost burdened system.

Imagine! supports continued funding for the HUD 811 program. The 811 program helps to provide affordable housing to individuals with developmental disabilities. Affordable housing becomes even more critical as Medicaid waiting lists are growing. In Colorado an estimated 12,000 individuals are waiting for services. Of those 12,000, approximately 6,000 are living with caregivers who are 60 years or older. As future growth in Medicaid will be limited, it is necessary that funding for the 811 program continue to help meet the expanding service needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. The HUD 811 program is the primary program that provides individuals with developmental disabilities with options for affordable housing. Reducing funding for this program could jeopardize the health and safety of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good News Friday!

One of the recurring themes throughout my blog has been the need for those of us in the field of providing services to individuals with one or more developmental disabilities to work together to find more effective ways to deliver our services.

So today, I’d like to share a little information about one example of a very promising collaboration involving Imagine!.

Imagine!’s Early Intervention Program has been chosen as one of four pilot sites to participate in an in-depth training and coaching initiative through the Early Intervention Colorado Autism Guidelines Project, in collaboration with the University of Colorado, Denver, Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center.

As a pilot site, Imagine! will receive in-depth training and case-based coaching experience for the implementation of practices. The coaching activity will focus on: Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) development, selecting evidence based practices, designing outcome monitoring methods, ensuring fidelity of intervention implementation, and making data-based decisions. Up to three children and their families will be involved in the pilot and the children will either have an Autism diagnosis or exhibit characteristics similar to a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Imagine! was chosen as one of the pilot sites due to the collaborative work that is happening between Imagine!’s Dayspring Department, Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services, Imagine!’s Service Coordination, and Imagine!’s Early Intervention Program.

Congratulations to all of the Imagine! departments involved in this innovative and unique project, and thanks for representing Imagine! and our mission so well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good News Friday!

For almost 50 years, Imagine! has provided thousands of people with cognitive and developmental disabilities the tools and support that have allowed them to become successful citizens and contributing members of our community.

Often, however, we become so wrapped up in our work that we fail to pause and reflect on our accomplishments.

So today, I’d like to share some statistics on the services we provided in 2010 to give you a sense of the depth and breadth of what we do.

Last year, Imagine!:
• helped 327 babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities or delays make progress toward their individual developmental goals (e.g., improved communication skills, improved fine or gross motor skills, or improved social skills);
• helped 54 school-aged children with developmental disabilities to learn vital socialization skills to help them to participate more fully in society, while affording their parents the peace of mind that comes with safe and appropriate childcare during work hours;
• provided job training, placement, coaching, and supervision for 106 adults with developmental disabilities;
• promoted the growth and safety of 306 local adults with developmental disabilities by enabling them to participate in enriching and therapeutic activities in the community;
• provided information and referrals to services to 1,279 families providing at-home care of a person with a developmental disability;
• helped parents of 55 children with autism spectrum disorders select and pay for services such as behavioral, speech, or occupational therapy;
• distributed $1,185,668.62 to caregivers of 583 individuals with developmental disabilities living at home to help pay for the services and supports that were most important to their families, such as respite care, medical or dental care, therapies, or devices to help the individual with special needs function better at school or work;
• provided comprehensive mental health services to 218 individuals with dual (mental illness/developmental disability) diagnoses;
• provided a broad range of behavioral health services to 105 individuals and educated their parents and caregivers about ways to build cooperative behavior;
• managed host home placements for 91 adults with developmental disabilities; and
• provided 24-hour comprehensive care to 57 adults with developmental disabilities, including seniors and medically fragile individuals.
We are proud of what we have achieved and we have no intention of resting on our laurels. We will continue to move forward with our mission, creating and offering innovative programs and services that allow our consumers to live fulfilling lives of independence and quality.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Paradise Found

Last week I had a very enjoyable vacation on an island paradise. The water was warm, the beaches were pristine, and I even saw me some ‘gators.

Those who know me well (or even not so well) know that it appears my mind can’t stop racing, even in such a relaxing environment. In fact this isn’t true at all. Apparently as all men do – I have a “nothing box.”

While in paradise, I did however pull out my “work box” for a few moments.

Specifically, I was thinking about my co-workers, and the ability of so many of them to achieve and make a difference in a very difficult environment.

These thoughts were initially prompted by casual conversations with strangers at restaurants and local watering holes that quickly turned, as they often do, to the question, “so, what do you do?”

When I answered that I worked for an organization that serves individuals with one or more developmental disabilities, I would usually see eyes glaze over, and my conversation partners would move swiftly to find another subject to talk about. The truth is, most of the people I spoke with didn’t want to know what I do, nor did they want to hear anything about the population my organization serves. They preferred a willful ignorance.

Now, you could just say that was because they were on vacation or because they lived in a place that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a great deal of reflection on some of society’s stickier issues. Issues such as how to provide some of our most vulnerable citizens the skills and tools they need to contribute to their communities, or who is responsible for providing those skills and tools.

But the thing is, that kind of reaction doesn’t just occur when I’m on vacation. My experience is that most people don’t take an interest in, or even want to think about, their own roles, responsibilities, and obligations when it comes to including individuals with one or more developmental disabilities in the fabric of their communities.

That leads me back to my appreciation of my co-workers’ ability to succeed under often extremely challenging circumstances. People who commit themselves to a life of community service are choosing a difficult path. The job is tough, the pay is low, and many in the public at large are mostly apathetic and uninterested in what they do (or why they do it).

And yet, I have found the people who work in the field of developmental disabilities are some of the smartest people I know, endowed with an almost unquenchable curiosity that time after time leads to creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

I have a theory that may surprise you as to why so many in our field are able to be successful. Obviously, it is not because of financial rewards. But here’s what might surprise you – I would also argue that it is not just a commitment to those we serve that leads to success, or a commitment to “do good.” Sure, those commitments have their place, but in my experience the employees and organizations that achieve the greatest success have a different sort of commitment – a commitment to each other. When employees are committed to each other they serve their organizations, and their communities, better.

I have find that often that commitment comes with an element of “us against the world” or even “us against the organization.” Certainly at Imagine! there are those who don’t always agree with me or the direction the company is taking. On more than one occasion, employees with a commitment to each other have been able to change my mind and even change the direction we’re going by working together and succeeding in demonstrating that their way is the right way. Believe it or not, I actually welcome that attitude, and even encourage it when the opportunity arises.

So as beautiful as my island paradise was, and as much as I enjoyed my time there, it reminded me where paradise can truly be found, at least for me - right here at Imagine!, working alongside a group of employees truly dedicated to each other and to providing the best possible services they can. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

(By the way, this in no way means I won’t continue to take the occasional vacation – I will probably have my “nothing box” out and need another reminder on this subject before too long).

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Good News Friday!

Here’s a great example of a collaboration demonstrating the positive results that can be achieved when a community works together to serve individuals with one or more developmental disabilities.

Last night, several individuals served by Imagine! graduated from a Boulder Police Department Safety First Course. The free course is designed to provide safety tips to adults with developmental disabilities who live and work in the community. The curriculum of the program covers decision making skills, street-smart safety, home security, fire prevention, and safety on public transportation.

Safety First for Adults is taught by Boulder Police Officers using a combination of lecture, small group, and hands-on activities. In the past 15 years, more than 200 individuals served by Imagine! have attended and graduated from the Boulder Police Department’s Safety First course.  You can see some pictures of the latest class members below.

Congratulations to everyone involved, and thanks to the Boulder PD for hosting this valuable course!

Doug demonstrates how to keep a backpack safe when in the community

Lana answers a question about when you should call 911. 

Rebecca practices calling 911 and answering questions, such as “What’s your address?”

John practices calling 911 on a cell phone. It’s different than a land line phone as you have to push the green “send” button.

Casey points out a safety concern in the photo on the screen.

Marius practices a 911 call