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.”
Nikki Rogers, DDRB Senior Administrative Assistant – Administration, gave an overview of the program, Partners in Policymaking that she was chosen to be part of in January 2018. The program runs from February to September and meets one weekend per month. The purpose of the program is to teach best practices and competencies needed to influence public policy and to develop productive partnerships between people who need and use services and those who are in a position to make policies and laws. Each month there are national speakers on the topic of the month. Some of which include key areas of discussion like:
- Inclusive and Quality Education
- Employment, Housing & Person-Centered Planning
- Positive Behavior Supports
- State & Federal Policy and Legislative Issues
- Supported Decision Making/Guardianship Issues
- Assistive Technologies
- Community Organizing & Coalition Building
Nikki thanked the Board and Peg Capo for this opportunity, and she hopes to bring back useful information to further the DDRB mission.
Randy Woods, Director for Preferred Employment Services thanked the Board for funding of the Summer Teen Employment Program (STEP) as well as the Board’s ongoing Supported Employment Follow Along funding and long-time partnership with Preferred Employment Services (formally Alternative Opportunities Employment Services). Randy introduced Justin, STEP participant and Beth Ching, Justin’s mother to the Board.
Beth shared with the Board Justin’s positive experience with the STEP program, utilizing Preferred Employment Services as an agency. Justin participated in STEP for two summers, enjoyed it and had a positive experience. Justin always wanted to work at a hotel, and was very happy when STEP offered him the opportunity to work at the Hampton Inn, where he worked in housecleaning. When the summer was over Justin was sad that he would no longer get to work at Hampton Inn. The general manager offered Justin a position.
Beth was able to advocate with the school district and Justin now works 3 days per week from 7:30-10:30am. Justin is happy to have this job opportunity and it is because of STEP and Preferred Employment Services.
Robyn Peyton, Case Management Director presented a mission moment submitted by Tara Barrett, DDRB Case Manager.
“M. is a studious young man who always knew what he wanted to become when he grew up- a College History Professor. History is his passion. If you get M. started on history, you will be knowledgeable in whatever the subject matter is by the end of the conversation. His passion absolutely shines through.
M. has Muscular Dystrophy. It does not define who M. is or what he can achieve. It is simply something that he navigates around.
When I took M. onto my caseload, he was a senior in high school. I was impressed with his fortitude. This is a young man that knows exactly what he wants in life, I had thought. Which is impressive for any 18-year-old! At that time, we began preparing for life after high school. Where did M. want to go to college? What accommodations would he need? The straight A student was courted by several area universities and finally decided upon St. Louis University. That’s when the team (M., his parents, Chris Howrey from Vocational Rehabilitation and myself) went to work. M. and his parents spoke to the university about accommodations and determined what would still be needed. Vocational Rehabilitation assisted M. with obtaining a new wheelchair that would handle bad weather and a new hitch for his vehicle. Meanwhile, I contacted several providers to see who would be able to provide Personal Assistance in M.’s dorm room. Finally, we found Living with Purpose of Missouri who hired M.’s three roommates to provide Personal Assistant support to him. It was a wonderful solution as M. would be familiar with them and have access to them in case of an emergency. M. is now coming to the end of his first semester and he reported to me that everything is going great. He loves school, enjoys living in the dorm during the week and is thoroughly comfortable with his roommates providing personal assistant services. He is thriving and making his dream come true. I am truly thankful to be a part of this wonderful young man’s journey to greatness. M. is an inspiration to everyone around him.”
John Thoelke, DDRB Finance Director shared his experience at Dan Bryner’s visitation, which he attended earlier this month. Dan was a consumer of the DDRB’s, his case manager was Judy Naeger. Dan’s brother, Jim was also a former member of the Board. John went to the visitation and experienced a new found respect for the work Case Managers do and Special Olympics.
Seeing Case Management in action, John was able to gain insight on the level of support Case Managers provide to both consumers and families. He noticed 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. Dan was also highly involved in Special Olympics and received numerous awards locally, nationally, and internationally. John was able to see how Dan’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, shared a story about Margaret Kelpe, DDRB Vice-President. She 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 make it through the system. It is difficult to do this alone, and caregivers need support as well.
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 was non-verbal and 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 TH.
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 70s, 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 DD services. The Family Support Partner Program was able to support both the individual and the family throughout the DMH eligibility process. Once deemed eligible, the individual was able to move out with a roommate, and is currently on a waitlist for an apartment. The Family Support Partner Program gave this family the needed support in order to successfully enter the DMH system and gain the services they desired and/or needed to live a life the individual choose.
Laura Altman, Case Management Assistant Director read aloud a letter received with the case management surveys sent out this year. The letter included the following:
“Emily has been absolutely gone above and beyond our expectations in providing assistance to R and to us. When Emily was first assigned as R’s case manager, I was completely frustrated with Ryan and his time spent alone at our home after school and during the summer. He had caught things on fire and put sugar in gas tanks and destroyed property and the list goes on and on. I felt very helpless and could not figure out a solution. Emily suggested Community Living. We had never heard of Community Living and were completely unaware of the services they offered. Emily took the time to determine which services would be ideal for R. She contacted them and R was quickly enrolled in their Teen Club, after school program and in the Extreme Teen Camp, which occupied every day of his summer. I honestly do not know where we would be today without Community Living and Emily’s guidance.
When we expressed a hope that one day R might be able to drive. Emily researched driver permit classes and driving assessment services and funding for transportation. We would not have been able to find all of this information on our own. It seems she always has a solution to our problems and if she does not have an immediate answer, she researches it and finds an answer for us. She has led us through the transition from childhood to adulthood and given us lots of possible avenues to explore and tons of hope for R’s future.
Very recently, I contacted Emily because I was extremely upset and frustrated and did not know where to turn. She was able to calm and reassure me and assisted me in finding a therapist to talk to. I am absolutely certain that R and our entire family would not be enjoying our very functional, happy and thriving life that we value today, had it not been for all of Emily’s guidance and efforts. I cannot say enough good about what an amazing blessing she has been for our family.
I have several family members and acquaintances that have children with special needs. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about frustrations that others experience in getting guidance and help for their loved ones. They have horror stories of missed appointments or lack of response to emails and phone calls to resolve issues. Any time that I have ever contacted Emily, she is very prompt in replying or resolving my issue or offering guidance. She has always been on time and always coordinates our meetings with my work schedule and R’s school schedule. I cannot tell you how many times I have bragged to others about Emily and DDRB and how happy we are with the services that R has received.
I hope this information is helpful and that you are able to pass along our absolute pleasure to Emily and to her peers. I think so many times, people are so quick to criticize when thing so wrong. I can tell you that I cannot imagine any scenario where things could have gone more right for our family. We are actually looking forward to R entering adulthood now and not fearing it. I give Emily 100% credit for our (as much as possible) calm, structured, peaceful life that we enjoy today.”
Robyn Peyton presented a video shown on KSDK Newschannel 5. The video was shown during Mike Bush’s Making a Difference segment and starred a DDRB consumer. The video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fQNpcpok-s&list=PLtxwUv5r5kpW2cYMeSgEoNUal3su2c8jx&index=7
Becky Greening, Director of Employment Services introduced the Board to Brandon and Josh who have recently successfully acquired employment using BCI services. Brandon and Josh were both hired at Daddy Ray’s Commercial Bakery in Troy, MO. Each was started at $9.50/hour and within 6 months were raised to $11.40/hour. If they continue their good performance, they expect to receive an increase to $12.00 per hour at their one year evaluation. These gentlemen have successfully obtained gainful employment in the community and hope to continue to work at Daddy Ray’s.