Last month in my blog titled “Not Again” I mentioned a movement to repurpose state budget money designated for employment programs for use in day activity programs.
The troubling issue is a shift in policy that is counter to normalized services and integration for adults with disabilities. We have worked years to get away from large segregated group programs and I am concerned we will shift policy by shifting funds. The adage is true – follow the dollars and you’ll know the priorities.
The Working Age Adult Policy makes work a priority and isn’t that what our society values? Don’t we gain great intrinsic, not to mention monetary, value in working? I mentioned in the Not Again Blog that when we were contemplating closing the sheltered workshop we employed the services of an outside consultant to ask the clients what they wanted. 80% of our clients said they wanted to work in the community! They wanted to have the same opportunity as all citizens because that is what America is all about – working and being productive in our society.
Does pet therapy or music therapy sound good? Sure, but most of us need to work in order to survive. If, in fact, the policy in this state is to prioritize work then the money should follow. If, in fact, we want an ancillary program centered around singing or making a dog’s tail wag then fund that – but not by taking the funding from employment programs. I say fund the program that best represents what is happening in the community. I don’t see our friends and neighbors sitting around during the work day petting cats as a large group activity! If, in fact, this alternative program is funded then in my opinion it should be integrated with other programs. Volunteer at the local humane shelter or sing in a community or church choir. The problem once again is that people take a paternalistic stance leading to a situation where we decide what is best for individuals with intellectual disabilities without really considering what they want.
I have talked about when I worked in Ellensburg, Washington many years ago. We had a segregated recreation program – best in the state in my opinion in large part due to the fact that we had a great Director and students from CWU’s recreation program working for us. When clients came to me and asked to change the service because they wanted to have more normalized activities I had to convince the staff that it was a good idea to move away from large group activity to more individualized services. Funding always came up as a stumbling block. It is hard to fund individualized services on a large group funding model. But should Pet the Kitty be 5 days a week several hours a day? Even I get tired of singing in my church choir after an hour of practice.
So I propose that funding for employment remain the same, that the Working Age Adult Policy stand and that funding is established for “recreation” programs based on an integrated model. And finally if respite care is the real root issue then funding should be established for an appropriate very short term, short duration respite model not adult day care.
CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside
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