2018 Year in Review
Today is January 1, 2019. I have heard the New Year compared to a blank book, with 365 pages for us to write out our next story. Wow, that is an overwhelming thought when you ponder it. What will I do this year? What goals should I set? It seems this year I have had a tougher time getting this Year in Review started. I appreciate when I am asked to do it; however, this year I am struggling. I seem to always say “The year went so fast.” or “The year was so busy.” This made me think, what if the year were not busy? What would that look like? No growth. No improvement. No lessons learned.
Now to be clear, I am not referring to “busyness” as a time filler for those who don’t like downtime, being alone or taking time for reflection. I don’t mean busyness that is really just engaging in meaningless activity. I am using the word “busy,” which can be good, great, and even exceptional. Look at the definition:
Busy: having a great deal to do.
“He had been busy doing what he loves.”
Synonyms: occupied, engaged, involved, employed, working
Sounds pretty good to me when we are engaged and involved. Of course, working or being employed is a good thing. Here at the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities we were “busy” in 2018. However, I don’t think there was much “busyness.” Let’s check it out though.
We kicked off the year with Strategic Planning, which is our three-year road map for where we think we want to go. It is not set in stone; it can change. We take detours. Outside influences change our course at times. However, this year we tried to be more intentional about asking “Is this part of what we identified was important in our plan?” We want our Annual Action Plan to be more than the formal six-month updates we complete. Our plan does include some routine goals to keep us on track, but beyond that, we want to engage with our community, advance disability awareness and move closer to the goals of Employment First.
Then it was full steam ahead with the agency Accreditation Review process in April. Wow, those were some busy days! We wanted to earn the coveted three-year top award. Many of our staff worked very hard to see that goal realized. We acknowledged what we do well during the review process. We also learned much about ourselves through the review, and we recognized where progress can still be made. I could not be more proud of how our staff handled this important time during 2018.
Up next was the Waiting List Redesign for all services. This was one of those outside forced changes. However, as the year wore on, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the new system was working. Early in the year, we made several changes in Service & Support Administration. Some of the changes were in part to be ready for the new waiting list process. We moved the ISP (Individual Support Plan) review process under one specialist. We then added an Assessment Specialist to handle assessments that Medicaid waivers require, most importantly the new waiting list assessment. As of this update, the new system appears to be working well. We have known for many years that names on a list tell us nothing about the needs of those asking for help. Now the conversation starts with “What is it you need, and how can we help?” We still have a long way to go, but we are on our way. We’ll know by the end of 2019 how this will impact our budget and then more effectively meeting the needs of those seeking our services in Lima/Allen County.
In response to the waiting list changes, I knew early on we had to tackle what we have available to offer individuals and families. We needed to add funding for supports that did not involve Medicaid waivers. We needed to develop a program that would set up an individual budget system. I knew it would not be perfect, as nothing ever is. I knew there would need to be funding caps for sustainability. I wanted to create something to give more control to individuals and families within a structured framework. To achieve this, Jana McVetta, Director of Quality Support Services, and I engaged in a very busy summer project, merging three long-standing programs/policies: Supported Living, Family Support Services and Non-Medicaid funding for adults to access day services and transportation for these services. It also took a small group of people, including a family member of someone receiving services, reading and re-reading the policy created to get it right. We added an Individual Support Services Coordinator. And somehow we got this policy ready for the December Board Meeting. This has become our biggest goal of 2019: for the Individual Support Services program to be up and running smoothly. We know we will need to work out the bugs. Answer questions. Set procedures. The goal is simple, to give more choices as children grow up in our services. I never want to wish away a year, but there may be a few of us who are anxious to see how this works, and if the funding we set aside can meet the needs we anticipate.
There are many other notable accomplishments that kept us busy in 2018:
We broke ground on a new home on North Street, which will be built in collaboration with LODDI, Inc. (LODDI is a nonprofit housing board under an arm of our board to rent/lease to individuals with developmental disabilities.) Our hope is that this new home will have tenants by May 2019. It is a new design for individuals with severe autism, so we are very excited about this project coming to fruition.
We continued to collaborate with the provider community on the Direct Support Professional (DSP) staffing shortage and other key issues. We funded and designed a television commercial promoting the work of DSPs. We also continued to support and coordinate Learning Lunches for DSPs.
At year end, we were approached about adding our financial support for an Employee Resource Network forming in our area. We know 2019 will need heroic efforts to obtain and keep the staff needed to provide supports to the nearly 500 individuals we serve on Medicaid waivers.
We had a change in leadership at Marimor School with Barb Blass assuming the role of Director of Education and Early Intervention. She has done a fantastic job in her new role. We had many other staffing changes at the school as well, and spent the year recruiting both Intervention Specialists and substitute staff at all levels. We are not immune to the workforce shortage our provider community faces.
We engaged in a partnership with the Allen County Educational Services Center for them to lease preschool and office space at Marimor School. There are many benefits to this partnership for the 100+ children who attend preschool on our campus. It might be a bit crowded somedays, but it is nice to see such a great integrated, collaborative effort on behalf of children in Allen County.
During 2018, the Allen County Family & Children First Council (FCFC) experienced significant change in leadership and practice after the resignation of the Coordinator. We took the lead in a redesign, and our Business Office stepped up to become the Fiscal Agent for FCFC. This helped provide a smooth transition for the new Coordinator, who was hired in the fall. We are happy to collaborate with the Allen County Commissioners and all the other agencies to continue the significant work of FCFC in our county.
We continued planning the All Ability Playground. We formally joined the ARC of Allen County to raise funds for two all ability playgrounds: one on the East side of Allen County and one on the West side. Each playground will be unique, serving those in our county who have the need for specialized and inclusive play. These playgrounds are long-term goals, but in 2019 we will continue planning and launch the campaign to raise the funds needed.
There were many other great accomplishments this year. Each one not mentioned is no less important to the overall picture of what the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities accomplished in 2018.
This year our Vision and Mission were updated as part of the Strategic Plan process, and we hold to these to start the new year.
A community that recognizes the importance and potential of all people.
Supporting individuals with developmental disabilities in Allen County by strengthening partnerships and providing high quality services.
May your 2019 be wonderful and may we continue to shine the light we were given, as we are ‘busy’ being engaged, connected and serving others.