Author: atomic

Admin Corner – Sept/Oct 2015

Upcoming Therap Conferences

Therap Services, LLC. is a web-based service organization that provides an integrated solution for documentation, reporting and communication needs of agencies providing support to people with developmental disabilities. We will be leading sessions about Improving Implementation, Meeting Compliance and Regulations, Using the Therap Bridge, and more at these upcoming Therap conferences. We hope to see you there!

September 15, 2015 September 16, 2015 Rochester, NY
September 30, 2015 October 1, 2015 Des Moines, IA

For more information and to register, click here.

Attention Illinois Providers!

Illinois has renewed DirectCourse College of Direct Support (CDS) online curriculum as an approved DSP classroom training program for use by Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) providers of developmental disabilities services. This is great news for all providers in Illinois, because CDS can improve outcomes for organizations, DSP’s, and individuals supported! For more information, contact us!

Upcoming training

The next series of DirectCourse training is coming in October, be sure to check our calendar for information on how to register.

Community Inclusion is Changing the Field of Psychiatric Rehabilitation

The community mental health field has a long history of trying to meet the needs of people with serious mental health conditions and in trying to help them become active members of their community, whether it’s helping them find jobs, get educated, or the myriad ways in which we all try to have a personally satisfying and fulfilling life.

However, for a variety of reasons, the efforts have typically wound up in providing services within community mental health programs themselves. Workshop opportunities, computer classes, organized bus trips to social and recreational events, and other “in-house” treatments tend to result in a vicious circle, which ends up substituting within the mental health center the activities that everyone else engages in within the broader community.

But that is changing thanks to the efforts of literally hundreds, if not thousands, of committed people who are working to push psychiatric rehabilitation toward a more holistic community inclusion approach. National experts, such as Richard C. Baron, MA, Co-Director of Knowledge Translation Activities, Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities are helping to train people at behavioral health centers in the fundamentals of community inclusion.

“Over the last twenty years a new philosophy has emerged,” Baron explains. “It might be called a ‘supports technology.’ If we provide the supports people need, they can stop building their lives around activities at a day program or community mental health center or psychiatric rehabilitation program, but rather use the supports of those agencies to live more like everyone else—which is how we define community inclusion.”

Baron worked around the country with numerous organizations like the Pioneer Center for Human Services in McHenry, IL. Just a few years ago, the Pioneer Center refocused its behavioral health efforts toward a community inclusion approach.

“Initially, we began by offering training for all of our staff,” explains Heidi Jenkins, the Community Inclusion Manager at Pioneer Center. “We asked: what does community inclusion look like and how are we going to change all our services in order to meet that philosophy? Even for our therapists who aren’t in the community but here in the building, we wanted to work with them to change their treatment models and treatment plans in order to reflect what the clients really want and get them out into the community.”

Temple University helped the Pioneer Center in other ways as well. “We started using Temple University’s Community Participation Measure as a survey tool with all clients in behavioral mental health programs,” Jenkins says. “That is a guiding plan we use with all of our clients to reach our community inclusion goals, in order for our clients to get where they need to be.”

In just a few years, the Pioneer Center has seen many dramatic turnarounds. “We have a client right now, a gentleman who’s been in our programs for a while,” Jenkins says. “He’s always had issues with depression and never allowed himself to develop himself further. After going through a few of our treatment programs he is now getting his GED. He is in his 50s, and he was apprehensive at first, and he’s had this amazing turnaround. He realizes that he deserves to be in the community. Right now he’s taking tutoring classes at the library and our local community college. Our community inclusion staff continues to support him as he takes tests and moves on.”

Jenkins is excited about the opportunities that a community inclusion approach can give the people Pioneer Center supports. “When they come to Pioneer Center, they don’t realize that we can help them go to college, that we can really help them do that,” she says. “They notice that we see them as a whole person, not just someone with a mental illness, but someone with needs and skills and strengths. That makes a huge difference.”

The DirectCourse/College of Recovery and Community Inclusion curriculum is designed to help organizations like Pioneer Center transform the service delivery system. Working in collaboration with Temple University, CRCI offers a web-based curriculum founded onthe principles of community inclusion and featuring coursework that help organizations streamline its continuing education that shapes the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the direct service workforce to do this essential work.

Employment Specialists Can Create Social Change

As the nation celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its many successes, it’s a good time to examine how far we’ve come as a nation in ensuring the civil rights of people with disabilities.

One of the foundations of any civil rights movement is the right to employment. Employment professionals–also called employment support professionals or employment specialists–help people with disabilities find fulfilling work.

While these professionals may not think of themselves as agents of social change, their work can be an avenue toward equal rights for everyone.

“When people with disabilities find work in the community, it improves the community as a whole,” says Genni Sasnett, an independent human services consultant. Sasnett has worked with the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. She assisted six states to transform their employment services from sheltered workshops (segregated work settings) into community-based employment.

Sasnett notes that by supporting people with disabilities to find community employment specialists are at the forefront of this civil rights movement. “Employment Specialists have the opportunity to present people with disabilities in an entirely new light,” she explains. “They have the capability of beginning to change that perception in society of a person who only needs support to someone who is able to contribute.”

People with disabilities who wish to work often face systemic and social barriers. “Why would employers hire people with disabilities,” Sasnett says, “when they haven’t had the opportunity to experience or observe their productivity, or how it will affect their bottom line as a business? They don’t have the experience as a business to see that it is a good thing that will help them make money.”

“Social change doesn’t happen overnight,” Sasnett adds. “But the path is there and we’ll continue on it and we won’t turn back. The more we can get folks into meaningful positions in society where they can be seen as being of value,that changes all those perceptions. And that perception change is what brings about people’s civil rights.”

Sasnett notes that employment specialists change communities, but their greatest impact is on the person they’re supporting. “If they are really listening to people with disabilities when they say what they want to do with their lives, and their preferences, and then helping them find that perfect job, that person is able to grow and see the benefits of working, and understand their own value, and worth. When you’re rewarded in ways that tell you you’re valuable—like with paychecks—then you start getting confidence and you start pushing the limits.”

Listen to a webinar recording in which Sasnett talks more on this topic.

The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum has many courses that give employment specialists the tools they need to help people find meaningful work. Our course called Principles of Career Development is a good one to start with.

Arc of Minnesota Provides DirectCourse Training to Families for Free

This past February, The Arc of Minnesota partnered with the University of Minnesota and DirectCourse to make four online curricula available to Minnesota families and people with disabilities absolutely free.

The Arc of Minnesota is a private, non-profit statewide voluntary organization that provides advocacy work and education that will further the efforts of inclusion and integration for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

“We were approached by U of M about our interest in partnering with them to make the College of Direct Support available to families,” says Don Lavin, Executive Director of The Arc of Minnesota. “I think we were chosen because we have a statewide network of affiliated chapters who have direct and intimate relationships with families and people with disabilities in Minnesota. We have some reach throughout the state, and we have partnerships with many disability advocacy organizations.”

Both the State of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota have been interested in trying to make the DirectCourse online training available to families and people with disabilities who self-direct their services. The Arc is offering all four of DirectCourse’s online curricula: The College of Direct Support (CDS), The College of Employment Services (CES), The College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving (CPAC), and The College of Recovery and Community Inclusion(CRCI).

By having access to these convenient, self paced online training courses, people receiving services and supports, and their substitute decision makers (friends and family members) are able to educate themselves on topics such as;  such as cultural competence person centered planning, and personal care.

“For instance, there are families and people with disabilities who are often in a position to hire a direct support professional (DSP),” notes Lavin. “By accessing these online courses, families will have access to knowledge with research and best practices, and it puts them in a good position to hire more competent individuals or to help them evaluate the services they’re receiving.”

Lavin adds, “For families shopping for services, it gives them the tools to ask good questions and help them assess whether the service providers are in a position to deliver what their sons or daughters need.”

Arc Minnesota is working diligently to get the word out across the state, and encourage people to take advantage of this great opportunity. “Right now we’re helping with outreach, marketing and enrollment,” Lavin says. “We’re also following up to make sure that people taking the courses understand what they’re learning. And also providing feedback to the University on ways to make these courses better and even more accessible.”

Lavin remembers a family member discussing how challenging it is to get training, especially when a person has to work full time and help care for their family member—with myriad chores to do in any given day, finding time and getting away for training is difficult. “The online training allows them to take these courses when it’s convenient,”

Lavin says. “You can learn on weekends or evenings, start and stop the training as it is self-paced, and it even gives people a chance to measure their learning. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Offering this training for free is also a big help, Lavin notes. “For families of people with disabilities, life gets kind of expensive. Access to high quality information and training that is no cost is a great proposition.”

Empowering families and people with disabilities through training is extremely important. “We can’t just be training service providers,” Lavin states. “We need to train people in the general community. If we’re going to get anywhere in promoting inclusive communities, we need to have better public education about living with a disability and how people can be helpful.”

Lavin also announced that the Arc Minnesota will be holding its Annual Conference on the themed “A Working Life” on October 24, 2015 at the Shoreview Community Center in Shoreview, Minnesota.

Arc Minnesota anticipates an audience of 300 family members, people with disabilities, and disability support professionals. He said the Annual Conference will feature a variety of timely topics to encourage families and self-advocates to consider the possibilities and benefits of integrated competitive employment. A session will be dedicated to online training opportunities available through DirectCourse, which will include course demos, learner success stories, and one-on-one enrollment assistance.

If you are a person with a disability or a substitute decision maker in the state of Minnesota and would like more information on this program, please visit the Arc’s website and consider attending the 2015 State Conference on October 24th –  click here for more information!

CPAC’s Alice Wong visits the President via Robot

As part of the ongoing recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), a reception was held at the White House this past July. Among the guests was Alice Wong, MS, a Staff Research Associate at the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California, San Francisco, who has helped shape much of the College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving (CPAC) curricula.

She is also the founder of the Disability Visibility Project. A community partnership with StoryCorps, the project seeks to gather the varying experiences of people with disabilities, and how the ADA has touched them, and record their oral histories.

While the event was attended by various members of the disability community, Ms. Wong’s visit was especially notable as she was present via robot. Beam Pro is a “telepresence robot”, and is similar to video teleconferencing in that it facilitates off-site communication via a video feed by which two parties in separate locales may communicate. But it is also mobile, and by using keyboard arrows Wong was able to move around the room as if she were in the White House with President Obama himself.

According to various sources, Wong was the very first person to attend a White House event using this technology.

Emerging technologies are going to help change the way we help people with disabilities lead better lives in their communities. People like Alice Wong, and the rest of the dedicated DirectCourse team are always monitoring new developments like the Beam Pro robot, and other fascinating developments, and will bring you updates regularly here.