Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Regional Thinking

From the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) website
The CDHS Division for Regional Center Operations (DRCO) oversees the three state-owned and -operated Regional Centers in Grand Junction, Pueblo, and Wheat Ridge. The Regional Centers serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who have intensive needs. Currently the Regional Centers have 200+ residents in the long-term habilitation model.
In all practical ways, the Regional Centers are not the institutions we knew years ago. They are Colorado owned and operated homes that are either cost reimbursed ICF-IDD models or HCBS-DD Waiver super funded homes, much the same as privately operated ICF-IDD homes and privately operated HCBS-DD Waiver funded homes (without the super).

Where does the word super fit in?

Well, for years the Colorado Legislature, at the request of the Colorado Departments, has super funded the State operated homes to keep up with the cost of doing business. It is important to understand that whether or not the State operated homes represent the provider of last resort, Colorado has no other option other than outsourcing this very important service to private providers within Colorado or other states.

Why doesn’t Colorado outsource? It simply cannot afford to do so today.

Do the Regional Centers have a place in our future service model? I don’t believe there is anyone in our system – not the individuals we serve, not families, not providers, not the people running the Regional Centers, and not our rule makers - who doesn’t believe that healthy communities are inclusive communities, and that individuals with I/DD should have every opportunity to be active, participating members of their communities.

And yet, because of where our focus is, decisions are being made that would seem to indicate that we haven’t learned our lessons and we will continue to use super-funded State operated homes as our preferred State business model.

Want proof? Here’s some startling evidence:
  • In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 – 16, Colorado’s expenditures at the Regional Centers was $35,213,622. 
  • In November of 2016, CDHS initiated wage increases for the Regional Center staff raging from a low of 20.6% increase to a high of 51.5% increase. The annual cost of this wage increase for FY 2017 – 18 is $8,757,198. This adjustment is reflected in the Colorado’s budget for FY 2017 -18, and translates to a 24.8% increase in funding over two years. Why? Because this is what it costs! 
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee authorized no community provider rate increase for FY 2017 and only a 1.4% increase in rates for community providers of the same service as Regional Centers for FY 2018. 
  • As the CDHS website indicates above, the Regional Centers serve 200+ (let’s call it 250) individuals each year. Over the next two years, they will be receiving $8.7 million increase to address the true cost of doing business. That translates to resources of about $175,000 annually for each of the 250 people receiving services in a regional center home. 
  • On the other hand, Colorado’s community providers serve about 10,500 people, but will only be receiving a rate increase of about $5.8 million over the next two years … FOR 10,500 PEOPLE! That translates to annual resources for individuals in the Comprehensive Services Waiver of about $70,000 per person. 
Those stats tell me one thing: The Colorado Business Model for people who have an I/DD is suggesting to parents and guardians - if you want to more than double the resources available to your son or daughter, sign up for a State operated home. It is the State’s preferred model. The employees serving your son or daughter are well compensated.

I wonder if those leading this charge are even aware of the message that is being sent by their decision making.

And guess what? There is much more to this story. Tune in next time and we will examine what is around the corner.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Anthony and Shelly, who live at Imagine!'s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, are set up with their own iPads, accounts, and tools needed to navigate their devices using simple switch technology.

Shelly has had very promising results with this year-old technology. Her head switch uses Bluetooth and connects to any device compatible with Bluetooth. She uses subtle head movements on the head switch to select buttons and icons on the device. The progress will improve as she fine tunes this feature with custom settings on her iPad. Because her head switch is Bluetooth compatible, she can use this at home, day program, and work.

Anthony is learning how to use the cloud and access his calendar and email on any device. This feature helps him stay up to date with doctor appointments and his supported employment schedule. All of his devices are equipped with “support navigation,” which allows for a specific app to be locked to prevent unintentional jumping between apps. He also uses the read feature, which allows him to hear audibly the text on any page.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Good News Friday!

Last week, a team of Imagine! employees gathered to celebrate the upcoming (June 1) launch of our new data system for the service records of the people that we serve. The new system is Netsmart’s Evolv.

Evolv is an EHR (electronic health record) system with well-designed functionalities for demographic management, service delivery tracking, and reporting. The switch to Evolv from our previous database was made necessary when the previous database no longer met our needs.

On the surface, this may not seem to be the kind of thing I normally share on these Good News Friday blog posts, but let me tell you that this is a big deal.

Imagine! is a large and incredibly complex organization, and our records reflect that complexity. We needed a system to track the records of the people we serve that was able to navigate data including the huge number of our funding sources and the huge variety of services we provide, all while protecting the personal health information of the 3,500+ individuals whose information we are storing.

No out of the box software was going to fit the bill, so the Imagine! Evolv team has spent the better part of a year reworking the software to ensure that when we go live, it will be with a minimum of stress and disruption to all involved. For most of the Imagine! employees involved in the switchover, their supreme efforts came on top of their regular duties, but their commitment to making it work never wavered. Many hard hours, headaches, and spreadsheets later, we think we’re ready to go!

I believe the result of this hard work will be that no one outside of our organization will ever notice any changes when Evolv goes live. That’s a successful outcome, and the result of some incredible dedication on the back end to ensure our work of creating a world of opportunities for all abilities moves forward uninterrupted.

Thanks to the Imagine! employees who made this possible (many of whom are pictured below).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today’s Technology Tuesday features a guest blogger! We thank our good friends at Cerebral Palsy Guidance for sharing the information below. 

Adaptive Technology Helps Kids with Cerebral Palsy Get Active 

Adaptive sports are so important for children with physical disabilities. Too often children with cerebral palsy and other conditions are limited, not included, and aren’t given the opportunities to get active and enjoy sports like other kids do. This is changing, though, and it’s changing for the better. While there was once a time when people assumed a child with disabilities couldn’t participate, more individuals, schools, communities, and non-profit groups are ensuring that these children can participate, and adaptive technology plays a big role.

Cerebral Palsy and Limitations
Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition. It impacts muscles and motor skills, and although symptoms and severity vary by individual, most children with cerebral palsy have at least some physical limitations. Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, a child may struggle to control muscle movements, may have jerky or floppy movements, may have a hard time with balance and coordination, or may even be unable to walk.

Treatments for cerebral palsy can improve mobility. Surgeries, for example, can readjust tight muscles or joints to make moving easier and less painful. Physical and other therapies can help a child stretch and build muscles, learn how to move in ways that are less painful, and generally be more mobile. Sometimes medications help too. A big part of treatment for mobility issues in cerebral palsy is adaptive technology.

What is Adaptive Technology?
For everyday needs, adaptive technology may be as simple as a walker or a standard wheelchair. Where adaptive technology gets more fun and exciting is when it gets kids with cerebral palsy involved in sports. There are many more devices available now than ever before that allow kids with limitations to participate. Athletic wheelchairs, for instance, have come a long way and can help a child get involved in sports like basketball, racing, and even ice hockey.

Adaptive equipment for sports is used for both kids and adults with a variety of disabilities. The technology has advanced greatly in recent years. There are even adaptive devices that can help a person with a disability surf, skateboard, race in moto-cross, compete in cross-fit, and even play golf. Boundaries are being torn down thanks to new technologies in adaptive sports.

Adaptive Sports Organizations Pave the Way
The technology is just one piece of the puzzle in getting children with disabilities involved in sports. There also has to be opportunity and availability. This is where dedicated organizations step in and use the technology to make sure kids have the chance to participate. Groups like the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Disabled Sports USA, the Special Olympics, and the Paralympics are leading the charge.

These groups provide opportunities and events and advocate for children and teens with physical and other disabilities, like cerebral palsy. Some of the groups mainly organize events around the country, while others actively participate in schools and communities creating models and funding programs to help children get involved at the local level.

Having a physical disability, having limitations or a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, is no longer a sentence that means sitting out when other kids get involved. Thanks to advocacy and technology, more children than ever are using adaptive equipment to participate in sports and to enjoy what all children enjoy: being active and social.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Good News Friday!

On Tuesday evening, Imagine!’s PR Director Fred Hobbs participated in a Nonprofit Pledge Pitch Contest hosted by the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County and Pledge 1% Colorado. Fred was pitching Imagine!’s new recruitment app, Imaginect. He must have done well, because Imagine! received an honorable mention award of $1,000!

Even better than the cash award, in my opinion, was the exposure that we received from participating in this event. Frequent readers of this blog know that we at Imagine! believe that technology holds the key to solving many of the challenging problems facing the field of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and that we are always trying ways of making technology meet our needs (Imaginect is just the latest example of our efforts in this area).

So to be able to network and present our work in a theater packed with some of the best and brightest in Boulder County’s Tech Start Up field is an opportunity that I believe will pay dividends for our organization for years to come.

Thanks to all the Imagine! staff members, Imagine! Board of Directors members, and Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors members who showed up to cheer Fred on. Thanks also to all those who helped in preparing the pitch - for Imagine! to be included in this contest is an amazing testimonial to the Imagine! team.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Technology Tuesday.

Imagine! Releases New App & Could Win $10k With Your Help

Like many businesses, Imagine! is facing a shrinking workforce and low unemployment rates. This combination makes it hard to recruit and retain Imagine! employees to support the people we serve. To tap into potential new employee markets, such as college students and retirees, Imagine! has created an app, similar to Uber, to offer "on-demand" short employment shifts. This opportunity was made possible by an Imagine! Foundation donor. We are calling the app “Imaginect.”

Meanwhile, the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County is working with tech startups to provide early stage corporate philanthropy by pledging 1% of their resources to nonprofits (called Pledge 1% Colorado). Out of this, they created a Nonprofit Pledge 1% Pitch Contest as a part of Boulder Startup Week.

The Pitch Contest, through an interactive and fun event, seeks to recognize and support entrepreneurial and innovative nonprofit ideas to solve pressing problems and critical issues facing Boulder County. Their goal is to support organizations in developing and testing new solutions to community challenges and leveraging investment to achieve impact. We submitted an application on the “Imaginect” on-demand employment app and we were chosen as a finalist to pitch the idea and could win $10,000!

The Nonprofit Pitch Contest is tonight, Tuesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Boulder Theater. We will make a 3-minute pitch, and the audience and a panel of judges will vote on the winning pitch. Please plan to attend, cheer us on, and vote! You can register by clicking here (it is free).

Check out the video and flyer below for more information on Imaginect.

Can’t see the video? Click here

Friday, May 12, 2017

Good News Friday!

Did you miss the April performance of Imagine!’s Out & About department's Center Stage for Kids program, “The Bremen Town Musicians,” or did you see it and wish you could relive the experience? If so, you are in luck: below is a full video of the play.
  Can’t see the video? Click here

Center Stage works this way: class participants get the opportunity to learn the basics of theater. Each activity focuses on integral aspects of theater production, including acting, singing, dancing, choreography, set and costume design, and lighting. Throughout this class, participants work together to create a stage production. At the end of the class, the group performs its show before a live audience.

Congratulations to the staff members and performers who worked so diligently on this creative endeavor.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Technology Tuesday

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that congratulations are also in order for Chris DiRosa, who is the Site Supervisor at Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont. Chris has been selected to receive the Longmont Rotary Club’s 2017 Citizen Compassion Award for his outstanding efforts in the Longmont community.

Chris has been a huge part of Imagine!’s technology initiatives over the years. He hosts tours of the Charles Family SmartHome, he has presented on behalf of Imagine! at ANCOR’s Technology Summit and Showcase, and in general acts as one of Imagine!’s strongest “Tech Ambassadors.” So to honor his award, it seemed like a good use of a Technology Tuesday post to share a couple of videos Chris has made about tech use at Imagine!.

Here’s Chris talking about technology use at Imagine!’s Santa Fe Group Home.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

We’ve talked many times about how we collaborate with University of Colorado Engineering students to create adaptive equipment projects for individuals served by Imagine!. In this video, Chris shares some of the projects and discusses how they are used in The Charles Family SmartHome. 

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Good News Friday!

Imagine! recently completed a Customer Satisfaction Survey for those families and individuals who receive Case Management Services from our organization. I am sharing some of the results below, and I think you will find them to be extremely impressive. Our Case Management team does incredible work, often under intense pressure and in an environment riddled with bureaucratic red tape. We’re not perfect, but we are very, very good!

I want to thank Imagine! Case Managers for their dedication to our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

If you want a larger view of the images, just click on them.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Technology Tuesday

This week’s Technology Tuesday is a regular one I get to share, and it is always one of my favorites.

Once again, students in a University of Colorado Engineering class taught by Professor Melinda Picket-May have collaborated with Imagine! to provide assistive technology for individuals we serve. We’ve been doing this for more than seven years. Each semester, students form small groups and select projects that have been identified by Imagine! staff members as something that will meet the needs of a specific individual served by Imagine!. The collaboration has truly been “win-win.” The students get real, hands-on experience on a unique and challenging engineering task, and people served by Imagine! get a piece of adaptive equipment designed specifically for their needs.

Below are some projects from Spring Semester 2017 students:

Wrist Stabilizer

This was designed for an individual served by Imagine! who struggles with tremors, making using devices that require fine motor skills a challenge. With the stabilizer, the individual will now be able to use an iPad with ease.

Bluetooth Switch

This was also a design for an individual who needs assistance with mastering fine motor skills. This Bluetooth switch was designed specifically for one individual served by Imagine!, and was created to react to the way her body moves naturally, so she could access an iPad.

Wago Opener

Wago products are designed for electronic interfaces. Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department provides staffing for GE Lighting, which uses these Wago products. The device created by the student allows one of the employees who has limited range of motion in his arms to effectively and efficiently open the Wagos at GE, making him a more productive employee.

Sensory Vest

This sensory vest was designed for two individuals served by Imagine! who are non-verbal so that they can be put in control of their own interactive environment. 

Reprogrammable Voice Remote

Individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities may find it challenging to control certain aspects of their environment – say, opening and closing window blinds or turning on and off a room humidifier. New products like the Amazon Echo or Alexa can open doors for verbal commands to operate those tasks. However, there is still a gap for individuals who are non-verbal as these devices may not be able to “understand” the commands. This project “teaches” the devices to understand non-verbal commands (like grunts) so even no-verbal individuals can take advantage of the amazing opportunities these devices bring.

And here’s a couple of bonus student projects, not for people served by Imagine! but still very cool:

Line Laser for People with Parkinson’s Disease 

3D Sunglasses for People with Dry Eyes