We provide real life examples of how we fulfill our mission of, “The DDRB is a leader, ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities living in St. Charles County have quality opportunities and choices to be fully included in society.”
John Thoelke, DDRB Finance Director shared an experience he had regarding case management services. John attended the visitation of a gentleman he knew and who received case management services through the DDRB. John reported that seeing case management in action, he was able to gain insight on the level of support case managers provide to both individuals and families. He noted the case manager is not only there to provide resources and support in the system, but they are also there for emotional support to the family. The gentleman was also highly involved in Special Olympics and received numerous awards locally, nationally, and internationally. John was able to see how the gentleman’s involvement in Special Olympics allowed him opportunities to do things that he found fulfilling.
Cherrice Hudson, Parent Partner for Family Advocacy and Community Training (FACT), shared how meaningful it is for families in crisis to have a family support partner. The family support partner is there to help families on an emotional level. They are there to talk to the caregivers and give them the additional support they need in order to navigate service systems. It’s difficult to do this alone, and caregivers need support as well. She thanked the Board for making this program possible.
Nate Harms, Interim Executive Director of TREE House of Greater St. Louis (TH), introduced to the Board Vince and Lori Cotton. Vince has been a participant at TH for 17 years. Lori, Vince’s mother spoke to the Board about what TH has meant to their family. At 8 years old, when Vince began services with TH, he did speak and was terrified of horses. Since then, Vince has grown in physical strength, self-worth, and accomplishment. Vince has participated in a variety of riding styles with TH. Lori can always tell a difference in Vince when they are not able to go. Lori thanked TH for being like a home to her family and thanked the Board for their ongoing support of TREE House of Greater St. Louis.
Heather Lytle, Assistant Director at Family Advocacy and Community Training (FACT), shared a story of an individual who was referred to FACT’s Family Support Partner Program, and the change in opportunities due to the services received. The individual’s dad called DDRB for questions, Karen Craven, DDRB Community Resource Specialist, assessed the needs of the family and referred the family to the Family Support Partner Program. FACT set up an initial assessment for the individual and family to identify needs. The assessment identified that with the parents in their 70’s, and the individual (who is 46 years old) was looking to live independently in the community. The individual had never been deemed eligible and never received disability services. The Family Support Partner Program was able to support both the individual and the family throughout the Department of Mental Health eligibility process. Once deemed eligible, the individual was able to move out with a roommate, and is currently on a wait list for an apartment. The Family Support Partner Program gave this family the needed support in order to successfully enter the Department of Mental Health system and gain the services they desired and/or needed to live a life the individual chose.
Robyn Peyton, Case Management Director shared a story of an individual who experienced a traumatic fall while in placement. The individual was placed in a rehabilitation center to recover from the fall. When released from the rehabilitation center, the family chose a different agency, but the rates were higher than what the individual had approval for, and could afford. Robyn and the Case Manager met with the Director of the agency. They advocated for the individual and were able to negotiate the rate so that both the agency and the family were happy with the results. The individual and guardians were able to choose the agency they wanted, and through advocacy and partnership the individual was able to receive the services from the agency they chose.
Sheri Wiltse, Chief Operating Officer for Community Living, Inc., introduced Thor Welker, Manager of Employment Services for Community Living, Inc. Thor shared a story about a client from Community Living’s Supported Employment Follow Along program. This client had held this particular job, for quite some time. When it came time to review the client’s case with the client and the client’s supervisor, Community Living became aware of ongoing issues the supervisor was having with the client making both parties unsuccessful in the workplace. The supervisor explained that the employee was not following directions and in turn was making significant mistakes. After a series of meetings, Community Living was able to conclude that the client was making the mistakes because other employees were pulling him/her away from the task to complete other tasks. The employee, being a people-pleaser, believed this was the correct thing to do. Community Living worked with the employee and the supervisor to increase communication and strategies on how to overcome barriers. Both the employee and supervisor have used these strategies. The supervisor has seen an increase in employee performance and quality of work.
This is an excellent example of how Supported Employment Follow Along allows individuals with developmental disabilities to acquire and maintain gainful employment. This story also expresses the importance of follow-up with both the employee and the supervisor on an annual basis to ensure no new barriers or difficulties have become an issue.
Sherry Jefferies, Project HEART Coordinator gave an overview of the Project HEART program. The Project HEART program teaches individuals life, cooking, relationship and fitness skills. Project HEART also has a class called Heart at Home. This is a class that is taught by participants in their homes. Sherry introduced the Board to two families.
Holly Ritter and her mother Jeanne Ritter spoke to the Board about Holly’s involvement in the Project HEART program and the impact the program has had on Holly. She enjoys the cooking class the most and has learned a lot of life skills as well as social skills. Holly has also hosted a Heart at Home class to teach others about her pillow making business. All participants in that class made pillows with the direction of Holly. Holly passed around pictures of the night to the Board.
Ryan Vetter and his mother Vicki Vetter spoke to the Board about the impact the Project HEART program has had on Ryan. He has been participating in in Project HEART for over three years and takes up to 12 classes a month. One of Ryan’s goals is to get his driver’s license, he took a series of classes through Project HEART to assist him in passing the written test to get his learners permit. Ryan has obtained his learners permit and has moved closer to obtaining his goal. Vicki shared with the Board the growth in Ryan’s confidence because of Project HEART. Ryan has also made a goal to live on his own in two to four years. Ryan continues to make personal goals and chooses the path to which he achieves his goals.
Barb Griffith, President/CEO of Community Living, Inc., thanked the Board for having Community Living present for the mission moment. Barb introduced Kristen Paez, Director of the Respite Center. Kristen said when she was first asked if she had a mission moment, the Loraine family was the first to come to mind. She was so happy that they accepted the invitation to tell their story. Kristen Paez introduced Erin Loraine, the mother of two children receiving respite services through Community Living.
Erin Loraine shared her family’s history with the Board. The Loraines have four children, two of which have developmental disabilities. One of her children has very high needs. The Loraines first used In-Home Respite. This was bittersweet for Erin, but it changed the way their family did things and the things they were able to do with their two sons. The family was on the waitlist for Center Based Respite at Community Living. After the first visit to the center, not only did the parents begin to feel comfortable leaving their child, but their child absolutely loved it. She always asks when she can go back to the center. Erin explained the impact these respite services have had on their family. The respite care allowed their family the needed breaks in order to maintain quality of care and living for all family members. Erin thanked the Board for their funding of these services, because they have transformed the way their family operates in the most positive way possible.
Johanna Wortmann, President of People First of St. Charles County, met with the Governor when he was at the DDRB office on January 21, 2016. Johanna said it was nice having the Governor come in and talk. Johanna brought up the issue of asset limits and informed the Governor about how important that is for people with developmental disabilities. The increased asset limit bill would allow people to save for transportation or emergencies. Johanna explained to the Governor her own situation and informed him how hard it was to make a living in the community without increased asset limits. The Governor noticed how well Johanna spoke and she explained how it is all because of her involvement in People First. People First has empowered Johanna to advocate for herself and others with developmental disabilities. The Governor told Johanna she was an inspiration for two reasons; one, she is an inspiration for others with disabilities and, two, she is an inspiration to him.
DDRB Case Management Director Robyn Peyton shared a mission moment that involved two DDRB customers. The two young men lived in a foster home for several years. As they became adults, this environment did not allow them opportunities for growth and independence. Their ability to participate in their community with peers was very limited, almost nonexistent. The case manager was able to advocate for them to move to an environment that they could call “their home.” They have blossomed in this new environment. One of the young men works at BCI and received employee of the year. The other young man now goes to an art based day program that he loves. They hosted their own super bowl party, including the menu planning and meal preparation. They now do their own grocery shopping, choose how to decorate their home and choose their activities. It is a true example of being fully included in society.