Friday, June 30, 2017

Good News Friday!

A couple of Imagine! events are coming up in August that you won’t want to miss.

Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department is hosting its annual Art Show and Performance on August 18 at the Dairy Arts Center. The fun begins at 5:00, when you can peruse the Dairy’s gallery, viewing some amazing art created by students in CLS art classes while enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres. And of course, the art will be available for purchase. At 7:00, the entertainment moves to the Dairy Center’s main stage, where CLS participants will present a variety of music, dance, and spoken word performances.

Then, on the following day, August 19, Imagine!’s Out & About department will be hosting its annual Bike Block Party at Erie Community Park from 11:30 to 2:30. This is an amazing event where attendees can test drive a variety of adaptive bikes designed to ensure that people of all abilities can enjoy the freedom and excitement that comes from biking. There will be games, food, and since this is the 20th Anniversary of Out & About, a few other surprises as well.

Both events are free. Mark your calendars now!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fair Play

“Fairness does not mean that everybody gets the same, fairness means that everybody gets what they need.” 
- Rick Lavoie 

I was introduced to Rick Lavoie back in the 1980s. Although his focus is Special Education, I believe his philosophies translate well to service for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) of all ages, and I continue to look to him as an inspiration for my own view of how we as a society should be serving this population.

Rick takes a pragmatic approach to services, advocating for them to be delivered in a relevant, realistic, and stimulating manner using a pervasive educational philosophy. While that may be easier said than done, the outcomes we hope for those we serve (fulfilling lives of independence in their homes and communities) demand that we embrace this more difficult route.

One part of Rick’s philosophy in particular has always stuck with me – his idea of fairness. He states that, “‘fairness’ is not equal, identical treatment; rather, ‘fairness’ means that every student receives what he needs. Because each individual's needs are different, ‘fairness’ dictates that their programs and expectations will be different.” Check out the video below to see him explain it himself.
Can't see the video? Click here

So why am I talking about this today? Well, right now some of our country’s leaders are trying to move forward with a health care plan that poses great risk to individuals with disabilities who use Medicaid funds for vital services and supports. I fear that one reason for this is that too many people making these decisions have the wrong idea of what “fairness” is, and the result of this misunderstanding will be that the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our communities will widen, to the great detriment of those on the wrong end of that equation.

When speaking of fairness, how difficult can this be?

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Technology Tuesday

This week's Tech Tuesday takes us to Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, where Karen can be seen back in her Standing Lift. The lift gives her more control when she transfers in and out of her wheelchair, and has helped her build up her lower body strength.

This may look familiar, as we've shared a Tech Tuesday on this before, but Karen injured her knee back in November, and has been working diligently on her PT since so she could get back to using her Standing Lift – and the hard work has paid off!

Great job, Karen, and thanks for sharing this with us!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s mission is to create a world of opportunity for all abilities. The pictures below show some examples of that mission in action during the past few weeks.

Imagine!’s Innovations department supported Jessica in attending a concert by one of her favorite artists: Roger Waters.

Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department took advantage of the nice weather to take the art class outside and do some sidewalk painting with Loren.

Imagine!’s Dayspring department’s Messy Play day brought kids and families together for a sensory experience full of fun and learning!

Imagine!’s Out & About Summer Camp is in full swing, and they’ve already been to:

The zoo 

A car show 

An outdoor concert

And adults taking part in Out & About’s weekend activities recently helped arrange a Flash Mob on the Pearl Street Mall.

And finally, here’s a picture of Donna helping to keep the entrance to her home (Imagine!’s Santa Fe Group Home) looking colorful and inviting to residents and visitors alike.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Out & About Story Updates – 6/22/17

Imagine!’s Out & About department is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year! 

To honor this milestone, we are collecting and sharing stories and memories from our employees, from the families and individuals we serve, and from the many businesses that support our work. In fact, we’re collecting and sharing 20 stories from each of those three categories!

Here’s a story from a former employee who shares how Out & About helped her discover a passion for helping others.

I’ll be sharing other stories and memories on this blog throughout the year. You can also click here to see all the stories we have so far.

I encourage you to visit the page often – there’s a lot more coming!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Regional Thinking (Part 4)

I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this blog the discrepancies between what the State of Colorado spends on intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) services for its own operations versus what it spends on community providers for the past few weeks (click to see Regional Thinking: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Today I’d like to explore just how we got to this point, and figure I could take some clues from journalists and discuss the four “Ws” - the Who, Why, Where, and What of the situation.


The “Who” are the people who have been responsible for the design and oversight of our system of funding and delivering I/DD services in the past, as well as the people who are doing those activities now.

With all due respect, I want to be clear that I am not questioning any person’s (or government’s) motives, or disparaging their commitment to our fellow citizens with disabilities. But I do want to point out that the I/DD influencers and decision makers tend to have, by their very make up, a short-term view when it comes to exploring system design and/or redesign for lifetimes.

For example, legislators and government administrators, because of the nature of their positions, operate in an environment of regularly designed turnover. The urge for immediate and temporary action, irrespective of a long term strategy or well defined outcomes, can be very powerful in this group.

And families – be it mothers and fathers or sisters and brothers - naturally tend toward viewing the issues facing the I/DD world through the lens of their loved ones’ experiences, needs, goals, and desires. Logic would state, however, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Apologies to Spock. All are important, however establishing the preferred business model of the State should be done through the eyes of the many, not the few.

So the main drivers and decision makers of a statewide design are hampered by limitations: limitations of time, limitations of data, and limitations of knowledge. And that takes us to the . . .


Why do these limitations make for a lack of strategic planning? Because they are using temporary solutions to solve a long term challenge. This has resulted in a patchwork of partial solutions, regulatory distractions, committees, and task forces, as well as cost-shifting rather than addressing costs. This has resulted in, at best, inefficiency and redundancy, and, at worst, contradictory rules and regulations that stifle progress. One example demonstrating that principle: the multiple shifts by the State over the years in living arrangements for adults with I/DD and the expectation of parents’ roles in those arrangements.

Sometimes those making decisions seem to be confused by the “where” of services, but to me that answer has been established for quite some time now:


Services should be community based. Simple as that. How we get there remains the what:


This has been the crux of all of these recent Regional Thinking blog posts. What is the best, most efficient, and most equitable way to deliver community-based services? The State’s actions would tell you that they rely on a preferred business model. But I have already demonstrated how that model isn’t sustainable.

Maybe it’s time to take the decadent training wheels off this bicycle. We live in a country where market drives success. Riders will never make improvements to a bicycle that continues to have regulatory training wheels attached. Leaders are afraid that a sole provider of last resort will hold the State hostage to unbearable rates. (Oops - we already have that). Rather, the market of 400 providers will balance rates and service designs on an individual basis. Creativity will be rewarded and cost savings realized and reasonable rates will ensue. The shared effort by specialized providers will make the term provider of last resort obsolete.

Speaking of resorts: During FY 2014-15 the daily rate paid for residents of the Wheat Ridge Regional Center campus was $694, while an average of about $175 per day was paid to Imagine! for people living in community homes and receiving a similar level of care.

What can $694 a day purchase? Well, in Boulder, you would be able to enjoy a stay at the St. Julien Hotel, including breakfast, housekeeping, turndown service access to a pool and spa, free transportation within 2-mile radius, free WiFi, and you’d still have a couple hundred bucks left over to take your Direct Service Professional to dinner on the Pearl Street Mall. Clearly the reason we don’t opt for this is regulatory; Medicaid won’t cover WiFi (I know what you are thinking) even though in 2017 access to the internet would seem like a basic necessity for anyone who wants to engage in community.

Watching from the nosebleed seats isn’t fun and frankly I don’t enjoy writing these posts. But it is past time to completely rethink the Who, What, Where, and Why of services in our State. $694 a day and it can’t cover WiFi? Really?

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Technology Tuesday

This week's Tech Tuesday takes us to the Charles Family SmartHome, where Shelly has found new and exciting ways to control her environment. In the past, because of her significant physical disabilities, Shelly has had to rely on others to control certain aspects of her environment – say, opening and closing window blinds or turning on and off a room humidifier.

But technology has changed that, and the tech keeps on improving, sometimes with the help of some friends.

For example, a team of engineering students at the University of Colorado recently put together a really fascinating project for the benefit of Shelly.

First, a little background. New products like the Amazon Echo or Alexa can use verbal commands to operate any number of household devices or control entertainment options. However, there is still a gap for individuals like Shelly who are non-verbal, as these devices may not be able to “understand” the commands.

The CU student project “teaches” Echo and Alexa to understand non-verbal commands (like grunts), so even non-verbal individuals can take advantage of the amazing opportunities for independent action and environmental control these devices bring. Shelly has been testing the project, and it's proven to be very exciting as a proof of concept, but we still have some adjustments to make before it can be reliable for everyday use.

In the meantime, Shelly continues to use her DynaVox, controlled by a head switch, to communicate directly with Amazon to do any number of exciting things, as you can see in the video below. Of course, we've only just scratched the surface of what we can do, so stay tuned for more!

Great work, Shelly!
  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Good News Friday!

Last week, at the Imagine! Foundation’s Annual Board of Directors meeting, we had the opportunity to offer our sincere thanks to Charles Holmes, who is stepping down from his leadership role after serving as Board President over the past two years.

Under Charles’ guidance, the Foundation has had two of its most successful years ever, and his unique combination of humor and intelligent leadership kept staff and Board members laughing while still remaining focused on supporting Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Charles will still be serving on the Board, so fortunately instead of saying "farewell" I only have to say "thanks" for his dedication to our community and the people we serve.

Charles is pictured below on the left with incoming Board President Don Brown.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Regional Thinking (Part 3)

If you have been keeping up with my recent posts (check out Regional Thinking Part 1 and Part 2) on the discrepancies between what the State of Colorado spends on I/DD services for its own operations versus what it spends on community providers, I hope you will recognize that so far I have just acted as a reporter sharing the facts.

For this installment, however, I’d like to start speculating on the future.

I’m not the only one looking to the future, of course. So is the State. At an April meeting of the Grand Junction Regional Center Advisory Group, the Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Human Services (CDHS) set a goal to ensure that the needs of people who require Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) services on the Western Slope will be met for at least the next 20 years.

Now, I have to make an assumption before moving forward. If the State has publicly indicated its willingness to meet the needs of people requiring ICF residential services on the Western Slope, they surely would make that commitment to similar individuals they serve across the State. Here’s a recent census of that State-wide population: 153 people live in ICFs operated by DHS in Grand Junction and Wheat Ridge, and 105 people live in Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver super funded homes operated by DHS in Pueblo and Grand Junction.

With those numbers set, it is time for some forward thinking and arithmetic. The next three paragraphs below may be unpleasant to readers of fiction, but they are important if we really want to look to the future and understand what the future holds if we follow the State’s train of thought.

Colorado’s current population is 5,541,000. Recent population growth in the State is about 1.5%, or 83,000 people per year. Prevalence of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) across the country has generally been stated to be about 1%. 1% of the 83,000 new Colorado population calculates to 830 new people with I/DD in Colorado every year. As shown above, the State, through CDHS, serves 258 people who require a more expensive level of care (ICFs or HCBS Waiver super funded homes). This is equivalent to about 2.5% of adults receiving waiver level services on Colorado.

Now let’s attach a caboose to the DHS train of thought: 2.5% of the 830 new people with I/DD in Colorado every year is about 20 new people, every year, who will require the more expensive level of care provided by CDHS. As I stated in my previous post on this topic, the State is currently planning to build four new homes in community settings, replacing homes on its Grand Junction Regional Center Campus, at a cost of $12 million, or $3 million per home.

Looking at projected population growth and the commitment from CDHS to meeting the significant needs of these individuals, that equals three new homes at a cost of $9 million every year. That figure is simply for construction costs, and doesn’t include the daily cost of services, which I’ll conservatively put at $400 per day per person for this exercise (Why conservative? The FY 2014-15 daily rate paid for residents of the Grand Junction Regional Center campus was $1,135, which was $441 more than the daily rate of $694 paid for residents of the Wheat Ridge Regional Center campus). The daily $400 figure would add an additional $2.9 million in costs every year. (Just a very important side note: Imagine! is paid an average of about $175 per day for people living in community homes where many were previous residents of a Regional Center service).

The grand total? Just under $12 million new expenditures every year by DHS! This is on top of the incredible numbers reported in the previous two Regional Thinking posts.

One caveat – the somewhat conservative figure of population growth used above does not take into account that the population growth will include people of all ages, not just adults needing support. However, children who have those levels of need will still have those levels of need when they become adults, meaning it is likely that in the long term the numbers hold up.

Once again, please let me emphasize that I’m not opposed in any way to spending money on serving our fellow citizens with I/DD. However, by any measure, the State’s apparent preferred business model isn’t sustainable, especially considering that Colorado has typically been rated at very nearly the bottom in the nation when it comes to fiscal effort for I/DD services.

So I ask: Why are we here? Who is responsible for these decisions? Is there a growth strategy? Who will pay for that? Or an exit strategy? Believe me, I could go on and on. Let’s see if we can wrap our hands around this next time. Stay tuned.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today's Tech Tuesday provides another opportunity to hear from some of the pod people at Imagine!.

Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department hosts a Radio class that, thanks to instructor Jonny Brennan and the assistance of our good friends at KGNU radio (including use of their studio), gives participants the opportunity to learn how to produce their own radio show/podcast.

Here's what the class has to say about their most recent episode:

"This month our class explored the concept of "Positive Self-Talk." In our last episode we discussed the importance of self-advocacy and standing up for oneself when interacting with others, but what happens if it is our own attitude that we need to adjust? Sometimes in life we allow negative thoughts to enter our minds and while being aware of these thoughts is important, allowing them to take over is something we try to steer clear of. Being able to talk to yourself and build yourself up to get through difficult times is a skill we all can strive to develop and maintain. Today you will hear us practicing our positive self-talk to use in our daily lives. Enjoy!" 

Listen here.

You can also check out previous podcasts here

Friday, June 9, 2017

Good News Friday!

On Tuesday, Imagine! hosted one of my favorite events of the year: Dayspring’s 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 pictures below of some of the Messy Play Day sensory activities to see what the words look like in action.

Big thanks to UPS, who sent a team of volunteers early in the morning to help set up the activities.

And congratulations to the entire Dayspring staff, who hosted another successful, fun, and meaningful event for the families and children they serve.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Regional Thinking (Part 2)

Last week, I made a post discussing the discrepancies between the fiscal effort the State of Colorado makes toward its Regional Centers versus the fiscal effort the State makes toward community providers.

I promised there was more to the story, and today that story continues on this blog.

For a variety of reasons, including outdated facilities and a need to meet the Home and Community Based Services Settings Final Rule, the State is currently planning to build four new homes in community settings, replacing homes on its Grand Junction Regional Center Campus. Each of the homes will likely house six individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), so the homes will serve a total of 24 people. The State has taken the first step and has engaged the services of an architecture firm to design the homes, which is currently doing some fact-finding on Colorado homes built to serve folks with I/DD.

The cost for these homes? About $12 million, a figure under consideration by the State.

I have no opposition to spending money to support our fellow citizens with I/DD, assuming it is spent wisely. Therein lies the debate.

The State is allocating funds for these four homes at a time when community providers of the same sort of services have seen a relative cut of 34% in rates since the year 2000.

Wait . . . what? Again with the statistics?

Over the past 15 years or so, that State has implicitly and explicitly encouraged community providers to move away from a residential model where four to eight people live together in a single home owned (or leased) by the provider to a Host Home model where one, or at most two, individuals live in a home owned (or leased) by the Host Home employee.

While there are pluses and minuses to the Host Home model, it is very cost effective, so I can see why the cash strapped State might want providers to move toward that model.

And community providers have heard the message loud and clear. Many have decreased or stopped providing residential services in group homes altogether, and have been selling off their assets (dozens of homes). We at Imagine! have also closed a group home in the past year.

So, on the one hand, the State is allocating significant funds to build new State owned and operated group homes, while on the other hand, community providers are selling off the inventory that the State itself wants to construct. Mind you – this isn’t a debate about the idea of staffed facilities being the model of choice. This is a debate about utilizing limited public funds in the most effective manner.

Is anyone else recognizing this discrepancy? Does this continue to contribute to the idea of the State’s preferred business model for people with I/DD? Tell me it isn’t so.

Then why do it?

Believe me, there’s even more to this story. Stay tuned.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today we’d like to introduce Rob Foster, our very first Imaginect recruited employee (pictured below, in the middle).

What’s Imaginect (pronounced imagine – eckt)? We’re glad you asked.

Imagine!’s service delivery is very labor intensive. The unemployment rate in Boulder County is at historically low levels, making finding qualified workers challenging. In addition, many in our growing elderly population desire personal supports that are similar to the personal supports for those with I/DD. This means that for the foreseeable future Imagine! will be facing increased competition for services coupled with a shrinking workforce available to provide those services.

 In short – we’re short workers and need to find more.

To address this critical need, we have reimagined how (and who) we recruit to fill these positions by developing an app called “Imaginect,” which takes an Uber style approach to employee recruiting, engaging a team of on-demand employees pulled from typically underutilized labor pools such as college students or retirees.

Imaginect is about flipping Imagine!’s approach to workforce recruiting on its head. Currently, Imagine! caregivers are hired “one size fits all” - employees who are expected to work standard 8-hour shifts performing direct care duties as well as tasks such as cooking for clients and cleaning homes. Imaginect assigns tasks such as cooking, janitorial work, or simple care giving duties to the on-demand employees.

Since these tasks don’t require full shifts, the on-demand employees can use Imaginect to select times, dates, and locations convenient for them, vastly increasing our available labor pool while tapping into the CU-Boulder student population. Using this labor pool for these tasks frees up time for full-time employees to focus on other tasks designed to allow individuals we serve to become active, participating members of their communities.

Imagine! is currently testing this app at one of our residential sites – that’s where Rob will be working. Eventually, we plan to use this app to bolster our workforce for our day services such as employment services and life enrichment classes for adults with I/DD, and early intervention services, after school, and summer camp programs for children with I/DD.

In the spirit of self-determination and self-directed services, we also hope for a future where families will use Imaginect to direct their own trusted and qualified workforce to meet their unique needs.

We’ll keep you posted as we move out of the testing phase and move toward fully engaging Imaginect as another tool designed to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About Summer Camp starts on Monday, and it sure is nice when they can start the summer off with all of the vehicles used for transporting campers looking shiny and clean.

Thanks to the Centaurus High School Cheerleading team, that will certainly be the case this summer. The cheer squad volunteered to show up bright and early Wednesday morning and thoroughly clean the Out & About vehicles, both inside and out. We thank them for their time and efforts, and for making our cars and vans sparkle like new!