Expanding our Horizons

Horizons Annual Plan Update: Executive Summary, April 2015

When I look back on 2014, I will think of it as a year of growth. We opened a new, seven person apartment building in the spring. By the end of the calendar year, 17 additional people were offered Supported Living (SLS) resources. By March 2015, eleven new people were enrolled in our SLS program with three more in process. In the Children’s Extensive Support Waiver, we have enrolled two new children for a total of four. While these numbers are relatively small, they represent significant growth in our program.

We have achieved many important things:

  1. Seventy-two employees have been trained in Person Centered Thinking.
  2. We are maintaining financial sustainability by limiting growth in agency expenses and increasing revenue.
  3. We developed systems to maximize our use of the funding hierarchy for Early Intervention services.
  4. Individuals are being served in an SLS model using Routt County mill levy funds.
  5. Three individuals were enrolled in our Medicaid comprehensive services program.
  6. Four individuals are enrolled in CES. Three more are approved and one in process. This represents 300% growth for us.
  7. We have 20 one to one mentors for the adults in our programs. These partnerships do a variety of things: attend fundraisers for other non-profits, go skiing, go out for coffee, go for walks, go out for meals, attend social media classes, play billiards, attend local sporting events, go to community concerts, and go to local restaurants for Happy Hour.
  8. We held our third annual Pick a Dish event in Moffat County in April. Interested individuals in Horizons’ adult programs were paired with chefs from local restaurants. Together they prepared a dish to share at the event. About 200 people attended and voted on their favorites. The primary goal of the event was to develop relationships between our chefs and the restaurant chefs that would result in employment. No job offers yet…
  9. Tommy Larson and Sylvia McFeaters were two of the five finalists for the Direct Support Professional of the Year award by Alliance at Awareness Day at the Capitol.
  10. All Adult Service Coordinators have been trained by the Labor Relations Board to conduct investigations.
Jamie Ogden and Ashleigh Santistevan partner with Castle Ranch at this year's Pick a Dish fundraiser in Craig.

Jamie Ogden and Ashleigh Santistevan partner with chefs from Castle Ranch at this year’s Pick a Dish fundraiser in Craig.

Sylvia McFeaters and Tommy Larson were finalists for the 2015 Alliance DSP award. Matt Troeger led the pledge on the House floor on Disability Awareness Day at the Capitol.

Sylvia McFeaters and Tommy Larson were finalists for the 2015 Alliance DSP award. Matt Troeger led the pledge on the House floor on Disability Awareness Day at the Capitol.

We have maintained many important things:

  1. The president of the board of directors is a liaison between the Grand County Advisory Board and Horizons’ board.
  2. We are maintaining our collaborations with Aging Well, the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence, the Yampa Valley Autism Program, Steamboat Adaptive Recreation Services (STARS), and the Council on Aging.
  3. We work closely with Behavior Services of the Rockies and with Mindsprings Health.
  4. We have maintained a high level of supported employment in Routt County.

Our priorities for 2015 include:

  1. Identifying needed growth in infrastructure in response to an additional 15 SLS resources, and growth in CES and comprehensive programs.
  2. Identifying staff to become Person Centered thinking trainers.
  3. Upgrading our vehicles with $81,400 in funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
  4. Updating and/or creating policies and procedures.
  5. Improving our system for monitoring agency performance.
  6. Defining our relationship with the local autism program.
  7. Continuing to monitor our budget to ensure that we are limiting growth in expenses and maximizing revenue.
  8. Advocating for choice in Case Management to include Horizons CMs.
  9. Advocating for a solution to CFCM that preserves our mill levy.
  10. Celebrating our 40th anniversary! We are planning 1970’s dance parties in Steamboat and in Craig.

Susan Mizen, Executive Director

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I Can Do Better

The R word. The H word. And now the C words: consumers, clients. When can we stop using words to differentiate “us” from “them”? People with disabilities, people in our programs, individuals—do these work? How do we maintain compliance within the current system but still move forward to change it? It was Maya Angelou who said, “I knew then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I can do better.”

If language is how we activate our values, what do these words and phrases reveal about us, our perspectives, our intentions and our services? And how do we take buzz words like person first (a good first step) or person centered and transform them into valid change agents for our practices?

At our Person Center Thinking (PCT) Training by Bob Sattler from The Learning Community, we learned that PCT is an ongoing search for effective ways to deal with challenging barriers and conflicting demands. It’s a way to assist people in defining and pursuing desirable futures. PCT takes clarity, commitment and courage. It’s based on respect for the dignity and completeness of every person. To be person centered, we need to ask why (a lot) and consider others’ perspectives. It’s not us versus them; it’s simply us.

Bob Sattler leads the grip of Horizons support professionals through discussion on person centeredness.

Bob Sattler leads a group of Horizons employees through a discussion on person centeredness.

The goal of PCT is to move from a service life to a community life. Bob reminded us that we are not trying to make people independent, but autonomous. After all, how many of us are actually, truly independent? Maybe independence too is a buzz word—one that was well intentioned but not quite accurate?

One focus of the training was the importance of environment. Environment is not a disability issue; everyone is affected by it. Environments can be toxic, tolerated, supportive or healing. A toxic environment can cause depression, aggression or withdrawal. A tolerated environment can lead to feelings of helplessness or powerlessness. Many people live in toxic or tolerated environments and they result in one person (the paid counselor) having power over the other.

Environment is powerful and complex.

Environment is powerful and complex; it can be positive and/or negative.

A supportive environment allows people to grow and blossom. This should be the accepted minimum standard for everyone. A healing environment is needed by those who’ve been hurt in toxic or tolerated environments, and the focus is on restoration and wellness. Both supportive and healing environments foster a sense of empowerment.

While there are distinctions between the kinds of environments we live, work and play in, we can be in multiple environments at the same time. Environments are powerful and multidimensional. They can often be the cause of a symptom we treat; what we see and hear depends on what we’re looking and listening for. This is a reminder to be self-reflective, to continuously look at what’s working and what’s not working, and to address issues effectively.

When we talk about creating person centered lives, we can’t prioritize what’s important to people over what’s important for them. PCT doesn’t mean giving up on health and safety issues for the sake of pure joy and constant happiness. A person centered life is one where a desirable lifestyle has been purposely crafted—it’s full of engaging experiences and rewarding possibilities. It emphasizes dreams and hopes. It fulfills who the person is rather than meeting the needs of the person’s diagnosis.

PCT tells us not to fix people but to support them. Bob’s playful phrase “Don’t should on people!” helps instill this value. And because PCT is part of a process of improving how we support people, it’s important to remember that we’re doing the best with what we know. While Maya Angelou’s words are eloquent and poetic, we can also refer to Bob’s wise words: “My name is [counselor’s name] and it’s been [X] days since I’ve tried to fix someone.”

Adult Program Director Tatum Heath follows up with a work session on implementing PCT tools and strategies.

Horizons Adult Program Director Tatum Heath follows up on Bob’s training with a work session to implement PCT tools and strategies.

Stop Stress!

Children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities often experience stressful events and interactions and then use maladaptive strategies to manage these situations. In addition, the presence of behavior challenges in children is linked to elevated stress in parents. Stress is an epidemic in our western world. It’s implicated in 7-10 of the leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, stroke, suicide, homicide) and indirectly linked to cancer, liver disease and emphysema. 75-90% of visits to primary health care doctors are for stress related concerns. Stress negatively impacts our physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.

jim-porter_smallHaving recently attended Dr. James Porter’s presentation, “Stop Stress This Minute,” at the Yampa Valley Medical Center, we learned about the causes and effects of stress as well as effective management strategies to reduce its powerful impact.

What causes stress? Is it your job, finances, relationships, responsibilities? No, Dr. Porter says; it’s you! Stress is the result of you, or more specifically, your thinking. Stress is a word that stands for problems. But stress is your problem to solve. Taking responsibility for solving your problems doesn’t mean that you are to blame. It means that you are the one to solve the problem.

Stress is related to feelings of control (a concept so important for people within the I/DD world). People who feel in control of their lives are invigorated and challenged by busy schedules. They believe there’s a solution to every problem. People who don’t feel in control of their lives are overwhelmed. They tend to see problems as unsolvable. In order to feel in control, we need to believe we’re in control. Control begins in our minds.

Stress is the body’s response to demands placed on it. It’s different for everyone; what stresses you out is different than what stresses your coworker or roommate out. Your signs and symptoms are specific to you. Stress is not what happens to you, but how you respond to it.

While today’s stressors have evolved from those of the caveman 25,000 years ago, the physiological reaction is the same. We inherited the Fight or Flight response from our ancestors. When we feel threatened and can’t escape (a predator attacking its prey), our bodies activate a supercharged, high octane response. The hypothalamus sends a message to the adrenal glands. The heart pumps 2-3 times faster, sending nutrient rich blood to major muscles. Capillaries close down and blood pressure rises. Eyes dilate and bodily functions associated with long term survival shut down (digestion and sexual function stop, the immune system shuts down, and excess waste is eliminated). Fight or Flight is short term for survival.

Physical signs of stress can include a pounding heart, upset stomach, dry mouth, rapid pulse, skin rash, perspiration, sleeplessness, diarrhea, recurrent colds, headache, fatigue, weight loss or gain, frequent urination, unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks, gritting or grinding teeth, neck ache, back pain and muscle spasms. Emotional signs can include anger, frustration, worry, fear, panic, anxiety, feelings of loneliness or worthlessness, and overreaction to petty annoyances. Psychological signs can include crying spells or suicidal thoughts, depression, frequent or wild mood swings, obsessive or compulsive behavior, lies or excuses to cover up poor work, and difficulty in making decisions.

Today, most people manage stress by smoking, eating, drinking, spending money or using drugs. Stress is a ubiquitous and dominating lifestyle factor. So why don’t we manage it? Dr. Porter suggests that our culture promotes stress like a badge of honor—it’s synonymous with the American work ethic. We’ve cultivated a mindset against managing stress. Doctors receive little or no training about its impact on health. As a result, we don’t know how stressed out we are.

Stress is cumulative and our levels vary throughout the day. If something small bothers you, your stress levels have accumulated and you need to hit the reset button. It takes 1-2 hours for stress chemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) to come down to baseline. Dr. Porter encourages us to know our stress number: 0 = no stress and 10 = a panic attack. If we’re at 5 or above, we need to use a strategy to bring it down.

One strategy is Cognitive Restructuring. It’s based on the equation: A (activating event) + B (belief) = C (consequence). Cognitive Restructuring means changing your thinking and it requires a commitment to transformation. It challenges us to get rid of negative self-talk. For example, when we get a flat tire on the way to work (A), we tend to get stressed (C). Most people believe that A = C, when it’s actually our beliefs about the flat tire (B) that determine the consequence. Cognitive Restructuring implies that if we change our thinking (B), we can change the outcome of a stressful event. Instead of responding to A by thinking, “Why does this kind of stuff always happen to me?!”, choose to accept what can’t be changed and stop passing judgment. We can’t change events, but we can change the way we view them. The only thing standing between us and our new behavior is a single thought (B).

Another strategy is to Self-Regulate. This includes deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and meditation. Deep breathing opens the capillaries that close during fight or flight. Progressive muscle relaxation relaxes the muscles and lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. It’s simply the tensing and then relaxing of each muscle group of the body, one group at a time. Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment. In today’s society, we tend to do things mindlessly, or we let our minds wander into the future and feel anxiety or reflect into the past and feel anger. In meditation, we notice the in breath, the out breath and the gap in between. Meditation trains the mind to identify thoughts without judging them or becoming them. Meditation allows us to notice what goes on in the present (where life happens) and breathing is how we bring ourselves into the present.

We’re all somewhat addicted to stress. It’s a buzz; it makes us efficient! It can be the spice of life, but it can also be the kiss of death. So when you decide what it is you want to change—which events or situations cause toxic stress—start small. Make one change at a time and practice it for weeks, if not months, before adding in additional layers of change. First, become aware of the need to change, learn why you should change and consider how you want to change. Once you take action, focus on maintaining your healthy behaviors.

A Time Management Matrix can help you decide which behaviors you want to change.

A Time Management Matrix can help you decide which behaviors you want to change.

And for those of us who know, work or live with people with I/DD or children with behavioral challenges, Dr. Porter’s work reminds us to be curious about how stress presents itself and knowledgeable about strategies to manage it. While stress is a natural human state calling us to pay attention, it can also be identified and nurtured to work for us rather than against us.

There's a relationship between increasing levels of stress and optimal performance--but only to a certain point.

There’s a relationship between increasing levels of stress and optimal performance–but only to a certain point.

Dr. James Porter has presented seminars on stress management at West Point and for The FBI, The Navy, The Department of Homeland Security, The American Heart Association, The International Stress Management Association and at Time Life Headquarters in NYC. His work has been reported on in a wide variety of national media including Good Morning America, PM Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, The Daily News, The Dallas Morning News and in such medical Journals as The Journal of Bio-communication and the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and The Journal of Family Practice. He is currently a fellow of The American Institute of Stress.

See more at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAqoKGy9zHM

The Steamboat Pentathlon: The Place to Race and Volunteer

It’s a calling for world-class athletes, seasoned ironman triathletes, adventure racing juggernauts and outdoor warriors. People say it’s not for the faint of heart.

The first Steamboat Pentathlon was held in 1992. It was an effort to invigorate late winter crowds and boost out of town visits. Since then, the one-of-a-kind Pentathlon has brought athletes from all around the state and all stretches of our local competitive landscape. Hardcore and quirky, the Pentathlon epitomizes what Steamboat’s all about.

The race features two courses. The standard course is a combination of a 500 vertical foot climb up Emerald followed by a ski down, a 2.4 mile snowshoe, a 5.6 mile Nordic ski, a 12.8 mile mountain bike ride and a 3.2 mile run. The short course is a 300 vertical foot climb up and ski down, 1.6 mile snowshoe, 1.9 mile Nordic ski, 7.4 mile mountain bike ride and 2 mile run.

But more and more, people are calling the Steamboat Pentathlon a community event. Even with its tangible intensity, competitive zeal, three month training schedules, transition area perfectionism, VO2 max calculations, electrolyte monitoring and carb consuming, it truly is about community. It’s about family and fun. It’s a day in the winter snow (hard ice pack or sugary slush) or spring sun (cloudless, boundless bluebird skies) where people show up to cheer, laugh, breathe and enjoy.

The Steamboat Pentathlon 2015 was a Coloradan bluebird day.

The Steamboat Pentathlon 2015 was a mild and sunny Coloradan bluebird day.

This year’s Pentathlon was the 24th annual. It was also the 4th consecutive year that Horizons has volunteered for the event. Led by Vocational Specialist Mike Dwire and Volunteer Coordinator Tommy Larson, people who work at Horizons and people who participate in the programs have come out to help.

Three of this year's volunteers: Jaimee, Tommy and Paula.

Three of this year’s volunteers: Jaimee, Tommy and Paula.

This year, their station was the midway point of the event’s first leg, the climb up, ski down. A quick ride on the Snowcat to the top of Emerald and the Horizons volunteer team was ready to monitor the station, point racers in the right direction, collect athletes’ clothing and bring it down to the bottom once the leg was finished. Back at the transition site, the team separated clothes and shoes, helping to restore order in an event made as much of gear as it is of grit.

Race coordinators attest to the fact that the Pentathlon cannot be done without volunteers. With Adult, Team, Duo, Youth, Standard and Short course categories, plus a new Adult Chariot Division, race numbers have swelled in recent years to 270 participants. Volunteers help racers on the course—handing out water and energy replacements, cheering them on, and perhaps most importantly, keeping them on the right course amidst the dynamic, spirited buzz of the energized, determined and charismatic racers.

Three-time volunteer Jaimee Purcell Sexton has a blast at the event. Tommy Larson calls her an old pro. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people you’ve never met before,” Jaimee says. “You get to cheer people on. It’s so much fun, I would recommend it to anyone.”

Having fun is just one of the perks of volunteering at the Pentathlon. Supported Living Services and Day Program counselor Paula Lotz helped out this year and says, “Most of the time at Horizons, we’re on the receiving end of giving. It was cool to be on the giving end this time.” It’s great to be able to give—that’s what the volunteer program is all about. It’s also about being part of a community, getting out into it and having a presence. According to Tommy, “Wherever we go, we try to be visible. We knew so many of the racers and we got to show them our support. There was a lot of clapping and a lot of enthusiasm. This year, it was sunscreen, lip balm and laughing.”

The Pentathlon has evolved into a harmonious balance of the red zone, adrenalin craving ultra athletes with family oriented and fun loving, (borderline) ridiculous mountain town fanatics (with team names like “The Heavy Equipment Operators,” “The Frozen Chosen,” “Miller Time,” and “Wizzpoppers”). It’s a community event for all, where people get to show their true colors, push to new limits, create adventurous memories and redefine typical.

The view from the climb up, ski down volunteer station on Emerald (before the mad rush of racers).

The view from the climb up, ski down volunteer station on Emerald (before the mad rush of racers).

2015 DSP Finalist: Sylvia McFeaters

Anyone who knows her will say that Sylvia McFeaters is a ROCK. She has anchored the entire Supported Living Services program in Moffat County for years. She is hardworking and adaptable. She has the ability to step in and out of roles effortlessly. She knows how to see the bright side of people and situations.

Sylvia has been with Horizons for 17 years. She was a Team Coordinator at Duke House, a group home for three people. In 2004, she took over the Supported Living Services and Vocational programs in Moffat. She has been our only staff member agency wide trained as a SIS interviewer. This specific and critical skill gets overshadowed by all the other things she does once someone is assessed. After a recent SIS interview, an individual couldn’t stop talking about her plans once she started receiving support through Horizons. Sylvia really knows how to make a good first impression!

Sylvia and Susan Mizen at our Pick a Dish cooking contest fundraiser.

Sylvia and Susan Mizen at our Pick a Dish cooking contest fundraiser.

Sylvia works with the most challenging behavioral issues in our agency. She can figure out how to work with people so they can function and be part of our programs. She is successful with people with whom it is difficult to build a rapport. Sylvia inspires trust. She is consistent, has clear expectations, validates concerns and needs, and lets others know she is there to help. She is articulate about the plan–no energy is wasted in confusion.

Sylvia never thinks working with challenging behavior is too hard. She only comes to her supervisor with a problem if she has a solution as well. She is a can-do person willing to take on any challenge. “If there were anyone in this agency I had to lean on,” her supervisor said, “it would be Sylvia.” She tackles things head on with a positive attitude and produces amazing results.

In her work, Sylvia is professional. In addition to providing great services and supports, her reports on done on time. She is respectful of everyone and she interacts well with other agencies. Everything she does is with a sense of equality.

In Sylvia’s world, every opportunity is a great opportunity to meet the needs of the people she supports. We’re so excited that Sylvia was recognized for her skills, strengths and value at Alliance Colorado’s Awareness Day at the Capitol.

Sylvia and Service Coordinator Pauline Godfrey working the door at Pick a Dish.

Sylvia and Service Coordinator Pauline Godfrey working the door at Pick a Dish.

2015 DSP Finalist: Tommy Larson

Alliance Colorado held their annual Awareness Day at the Capitol on February 18th, 2015. Awareness Day helps state level elected officials understand the significance of supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental delays and disabilities. Alliance hosts a luncheon for its Community Centered Board and Program Approved Service Agency members and honors the top Direct Support Professionals from around the state. This year, Horizons was proud and excited to have two employees chosen as finalists for the award.

2015 DSP finalists Sylvia McFeaters and Tommy Larson. Matt Troeger led the Pledge.

2015 Alliance DSP Finalists Sylvia McFeaters and Tommy Larson. Matt Troeger led the pledge.

Tommy Larson, our Volunteer Coordinator and a Supported Living Services Counselor, has been with Horizons for eight years. He is one of those people every organization needs. On any given day, he goes above and beyond. Even when you tell him not to go above and beyond, he can’t help himself. That’s his natural state. He volunteers his time to create social opportunities for clients—whether it’s Guys’ Brunch, Spaghetti Night, 4th of July Fireworks, trips to Denver, Labor Day Air Show, or a Pie in the Sky party.

Guys' brunch at CMC

Guys’ Brunch at Colorado Mountain College. That’s a crew!

Tommy consistently addresses needs; the needs of the people he supports come first. When someone he works with injured himself at 9pm on a Sunday night, he called Tommy. Tommy stayed with him until he felt comfortable. This person had never wanted to reach out before, and he might not have called anyone else if Tommy wasn’t part of his life.

When it comes to teaching new skills, Tommy is creative. To work on reading comprehension, Tommy asked the family of a woman he works with to write notes to her. This way, her learning was integrated into her personal relationships and daily living. For individuals who are working on social skills, Tommy brainstorms fun activities in the community and actively encourages participation. Tommy helped Matt host a Midsummer Mixer for friends at a local brewery; the brewery has since offered Matt a job!

Tommy is a connector. He and Matt volunteer at Casey’s Pond retirement community. He involves Horizons in student activities at Colorado Mountain College. Tommy weaves together social circles and makes real, personal, deep connections for himself and others. He doesn’t just go through the motions or follow a program. Tommy lives in the moment and the moment belongs to him and the people with whom he’s working.

Tommy knows that finding natural supports is critical to helping people thrive. He goes the extra mile to connect with existing businesses and organizations to make ordinary days and events extraordinary. He put together a holiday party at Lake Catamount, coaxing a fellow counselor into wearing an elf costume! He organizes road trips to Hahn’s Peak Café to experience the live music of bands. When bands play at Carl’s Tavern, he’s there, too, for camaraderie and fun.

Tommy and his wife Sarah with Peter at a concert in Gondola Square

Tommy and his wife Sarah take in a concert at Gondola Square with Peter.

Tommy is a regular in almost all community events, from Steamboat’s Merry Main Street parade, the Pro Rodeo Series and the circus to the free summer concerts and Steamboat Springs Running Series. On holidays, Tommy invites the people he supports out so they don’t have to be alone. He improves people’s quality of life and he perfectly combines his two roles—advocating for people and advocating for volunteering. Ultimately, he makes the community better.

Merry Main Street parade

Merry Main Street Parade: it’s cold but full of holiday spirit!

Tommy’s humor makes people feel at ease and comfortable. He genuinely listens to people and he genuinely supports people. He is truly person centered. He is selfless but not a martyr. Tommy makes things happen.

Amanda Barnett, Tommy’s supervisor, sees clear program related results after Tommy is done working. She sees an improvement in individuals’ cooking skills, their ability to navigate the kitchen efficiently and use knives. “It’s the person who does the job and how he does it,” Amanda noted.

Professionally, Tommy is always willing to learn. He wants to improve and is open to feedback. He is humble enough to assume he’ll do better next time. Tommy enrolled in the Leadership Steamboat program and consequently expanded his network of community contacts. His participation in Leadership Steamboat led to his involvement with Colorado Gives Day. He created his own donor page and spent hours of time promoting Yampa Valley Gives. His band, Badunkafunk, played at a McKnight’s Irish Pub to promote Colorado Gives/Yampa Valley Gives Day. Badunkafunk never turns down an opportunity to play free for local nonprofits with worthy causes.

Matt easily sums up Tommy: “Tommy is really fun to hang out with. He totally cares about people.” And the mother of a woman in Horizons’ program likes to say: “When my daughter hears special needs, all she hears is special.” Tommy makes this true by providing her with so many opportunities to be special.

Tommy and Mark at Fish Creek Falls

Tommy and Mark enjoying Fish Creek Falls.

Horizons Annual Plan Update: Executive Summary April 2014

When I look back on 2013, I will think of it as the year of construction. In 2012 Horizons was awarded a $1.27 million grant from HUD to build an 8 unit apartment building to provide supportive housing for 7 clients. We broke ground in June 2013 and took possession of an amazing new apartment building on March 5, 2014. It opened as a licensed, 7 bed group home on April 26th.

Board President Bob Grover, resident Don Pearce, Adult Program Director Tatum Heath

Board President Bob Grover, resident Don Pearce, Adult Program Director Tatum Heath

While the HUD project has been the most time consuming of our accomplishments, we have achieved many other important things:

  1. Fourteen employees were trained in Person Centered Thinking in Glenwood Springs in October. Ten more will be trained in Montrose in August.
  2. We are maintaining financial sustainability by limiting growth in agency expenses and increasing revenue.
  3. We developed systems to maximize our use of the funding hierarchy for Early Intervention services.
  4. Nine individuals are being served in an SLS model using Routt County mill levy funds.
  5. Two new individuals were enrolled in CES. This was a major accomplishment since we did not previously offer CES services.
  6. Horizons is utilizing more strategies for promoting local service options such as events (Little Points of Light Home Tour in Rio Blanco County to promote Early Intervention; Pick a Dish in Craig to promote vocational opportunities for adults) and new awareness activities (Light it Up Blue in collaboration with the Yampa Valley Autism Program; Disability Awareness in the schools).
  7. We have 20 one to one mentors for the adults in our programs. These partnerships do a variety of things: attend fundraisers for other non-profits, go skiing, go out for coffee, go for walks, go out for meals, and go to local restaurants for Happy Hour.
  8. We held our second annual Pick a Dish event in Moffat County in April. Interested individuals in Horizons’ adult programs were paired with chefs from local restaurants. Together they prepared a dish to share at the event. About 200 people attended and voted on their favorites. The primary goal of the event was to develop relationships between our chefs and the restaurant chefs that would result in employment. No job offers yet…
  9. Cathryn Marie, who works in our residential program in Steamboat Springs, was honored as the Direct Support Professional of the Year by Alliance at Awareness Day at the Capitol.

We have maintained many important things:

  1. The president of the board of directors is a liaison between the Grand County Advisory Board and Horizons’ board. A meeting of the GCAB served as our public forum on January 21, 2014.
  2. We are maintaining our collaborations with Aging Well and the Council on Aging.
  3. We work closely with Behavior Services of the Rockies and with Mindsprings Health. An employee of Horizons is becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
  4. We have maintained a high level of supported employment in Routt County.
The Ace job crew

The Ace Hardware job crew

Our priorities for 2014 include:

  1. Opening the Soda Creek Apartments as a 7 bed group home.
  2. Identifying needed growth in infrastructure in response to an additional 15 SLS resources, and potential growth in CES and comprehensive programs.
  3. Training 30% of our employees in Person Centered Thinking.
  4. Upgrading our vehicles with $81,400 in funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
  5. Updating and/or creating policies and procedures.
  6. Improving our system for monitoring agency performance.
  7. Improving our use of technology by replacing aging computers and addressing file sharing and security.
  8. Development and implementation of an ongoing training plan for current employees.
  9. Defining our relationship with the local autism program.
  10. Identifying social emotional providers for Early Intervention in each county.
  11. Fully implementing the Early Intervention funding hierarchy.
  12. Continuing to monitor our budget to ensure that we are limiting growth in expenses and maximizing revenue.

 

Attitude and Self Awareness

hospital picture

Ginny Cannon, our Routt County Day Program Coordinator, was inspired by the Person Centered Thinking training she attended last October at Mountain Valley. After the training, she started exploring some of the resources she learned about from the two Foothills Gateway trainers. She quickly realized there was a lot of great information she could use at Horizons’ day program, Milestones.

With help from Tommy Larson and Paula Lotz, Ginny started weekly Person Centered Thinking classes. Tommy found businesses in the community with meeting rooms large enough for our group of twelve learners. Each week the class is at a different location – a bank, the newspaper, an insurance office and more.

I went to the class this week which was in a conference room at the Yampa Valley Medical Center. The energy level was high as everyone arrived. Paula started the class by reviewing topics they’ve covered: What things do we like? Who is in our circle of friends? How do we learn? She reminded everyone that it is important to know ourselves and who our team is. People on our team care about us and our successes and challenges.

There were two topics this week. The first one was about attitude. Paula asked the group: “If you are having a bad day, how can you get past that feeling? How do you move from I won’t do it to I want to do it to how am I going to do it to I did it?” Jeffrey gave everyone a great example. Sometimes when he goes to the library, they don’t have the DVD he wants. He figured out how to get from I can’t get the DVD to how am I going to get the DVD to I will get it. He decided he would ask a librarian for help ordering the DVD through the interlibrary loan. He did it!

Ginny led the group through the second topic about self-awareness. Everyone made a list of things they are good at, things they are proud of, and how others see them. One of the things that struck me is that my lists were generally work related but theirs were about life! Their answers were dancing, reading, music, cooking, asking questions, being a good friend, and standing up for themselves. Jamie told us how proud she is because she volunteers at Soda Creek Elementary reading to students in kindergarten. I’d be proud about that, too, wouldn’t you?

Our Celebrities: Part Two

First, a little background.Horizons is a member of an organization based in Denver called Alliance. Alliance represents people in Colorado with developmental disabilities. One of the most important things they do is make sure that our state level elected officials understand the work we do and, when they can, increase state funding for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

To help make sure our elected officials are well informed, Alliance hosts an annual Awareness Day in Denver. The House and Senate pass a resolution in support of I/DD followed by a luncheon at the Denver Art Museum. At the luncheon, Alliance honors Direct Support Professionals from around the state. Each provider who is a member of Alliance can nominate one or two counselors for this honor.

Here at Horizons, we invited employees and family members to nominate someone for this award. Of the three counselors nominated in Moffat County, the committee selected Melissa Stadler to represent us.

As one of 37 nominees from across the state, Melissa is honored at the Capitol for her work as a Direct Support Professional. L to R: Susan Mizen, Melissa Stadler, State Rep. Bob Rankin, Sean Davis.

As one of 37 nominees from across the state, Melissa is honored at the Capitol for her work as a Direct Support Professional. L to R: Susan Mizen, Melissa Stadler, State Rep. Bob Rankin, Sean Davis.

I would like to tell you about Melissa so that you will see why she was nominated. When Melissa first started working as a Direct Support Professional at Horizons, it was clear to everyone that caring for people was what she did. She came with a powerful sense of confidence and calm. With her observant nature, she notices the details and nuances that affect each Individual. As exceptional as she is at her job, Melissa works hard in every moment and puts all her effort into each individual, activity and interaction—she intrinsically seeks improvement not only in the lives of the people we support, but in her own professional performance as well.

Melissa keeps people in our program engaged at home and in the community. Her way of being—her willingness to help, to participate, to go out of her way—is a boon to the people she serves. Melissa, who is also an artist, naturally immerses others into the creative world. She has helped people in our program produce numerous art projects that decorate their homes. She led the effort for people we support to participate in making decorations for the local Festival of Trees—enhancing skill sets and raising awareness for Horizons’ mission. Melissa has not only brought art into the lives of those we support, she has also become Horizons’ artistic consultant for all activities.

Melissa is caring, giving, and truly understanding of the needs of those around her. Her natural disposition helps to increase the circle of unpaid professionals in each person’s life. Most recently, she noticed that one particular individual liked to jump into the conversation when Melissa was skyping with her father. Now, this person and Melissa’s father skype on their own. Melissa has easily expanded the individual’s and her father’s network and deepened connections for both.

At Horizons, Melissa is a positive role model.  No matter what is asked of her, she will do it and do it well. Whenever someone is needed, Melissa is there in a heartbeat—she never says no when people have needs to be met. Melissa is sharp, quick, kind, reliable, confident and knowledgeable. Her sense of humor and calm demeanor allow her to work successfully with new individuals and those with severe needs. Melissa is a natural who continually raises the bar for quality care.

I hope that you will have the pleasure of meeting Melissa if you don’t already know her. We are lucky to work with her.

Horizons staff at the Capitol on Awareness Day: Susan Mizen, Yvonne Truelove, Cathryn Marie, Amy Ibarra, Melissa Stadler, and Sean Davis.

Horizons staff at the Capitol on Awareness Day: Susan Mizen, Yvonne Truelove, Cathryn Marie, Amy Ibarra, Melissa Stadler, and Sean Davis.

Our Celebrities: Part One

First, a little background. Horizons is a member of an organization based in Denver called Alliance. Alliance represents people in Colorado with developmental disabilities. One of the most important things they do is make sure that our state level elected officials understand the work we do and, when they can, increase state funding for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Representative Diane Mitsch Bush testifies on Awareness Day.

Representative Diane Mitsch Bush testifies on Awareness Day.

To help make sure our elected officials are well informed, Alliance hosts an annual Awareness Day in Denver. The House and Senate pass a resolution in support of I/DD followed by a luncheon at the Denver Art Museum. At the luncheon, Alliance honors Direct Support Professionals from around the state. Each provider who is a member of Alliance can nominate one or two counselors for this honor.

Here at Horizons, we invited employees and family members to nominate someone for this award. Of the six counselors nominated in Routt County, the committee selected Cathryn Marie to represent us. It was not an easy decision.

I would like to tell you a little bit about Cathryn. Cathryn has worked as a Direct Support Professional at Horizons for almost six years. She considers the people she works with family and relates to them with genuine concern and advocacy. Cathryn does everything she can to set them up for success. She skips no steps in this process: she is meticulous to ensure that the people she supports have the health supplies they need, the right protocols in place, and an informed and accountable team. She takes advantage of teachable moments so that they feel safe, develop skills and realize their autonomy. Cathryn is known for her deep level of commitment; she intentionally interacts with the people Horizons supports and goes out of her way to cultivate community connections. When Cathryn is out and about, she takes the time to introduce the people she knows to the people she works with. Cathryn’s dedication is clear: her priorities are the people we support.

Many people helped by Horizons enthusiastically participate in a weekly bowling league open to community members with and without disabilities. Cathryn attends on Wednesday nights whether or not she is working. She goes for the pure pleasure of spending time with those we help—she doesn’t just provide services to them, she enjoys them. Cathryn makes herself available 24 hours, seven days a week. She naturally connects with people with disabilities and nurtures those connections in all parts of her life.

The Wednesday Bowling League crew surprises Cathryn with her nomination for Direct Support Professional.

The Wednesday Bowling League crew surprises Cathryn with her nomination for Direct Support Professional (DSP).

A determined advocacy underlies Cathryn’s work at Horizons. When someone couldn’t attend Special Olympics, she found a way to make it happen—the travel plans, the hotel stay and the funding. When another person couldn’t afford a nice pair of shoes, she sought out a grant opportunity to fund the purchase. When someone needed hearing aids, Cathryn met with the team to discuss what would work best in all possible settings. Cathryn takes the time to use information—written documentation, personal observation and the dynamics of an environment—to help each individual and our agency make the best next move.

Professionally, Cathryn is organized. She manages her time efficiently and effectively. She is always willing to help out at other houses by picking up shifts as needed. She is as committed to the agency as she is to each person we help. Cathryn brings high energy and a positive attitude to work with her every day. This positive outlook is infectious amongst her coworkers and it teaches the people in our program to see the world in a positive way. Cathryn feels grateful to be able to work at Horizons, and this gratitude is palpable and enlightening.

All of us at Horizons are so fortunate to have her in our lives.

Out of 37 nominees from across the state, Cathryn Marie won the award for 2014 Direct Support Professional.

Out of 37 nominees from across the state, Cathryn Marie won the award for 2014 DSP.