Expanding our Horizons

Tag: person centered thinking

Excellence: DSPs at Work

All of us

The Capitol Gang: Michael Toothaker, Brittany Smale, Jana Hoffman, Representative Diane Mitsch Bush, Susan Mizen, Heather Gibbon, Yvonne Truelove

At Horizons, we envision a world where people with IDD live community-based lives of their choice supported by highly qualified DSPs. Alliance Colorado celebrated Awareness Day at the Capitol on February 17th, highlighting issues people with IDD face and the work DSPs do. From across the state, 30 DSPs were nominated for the 2016 DSP of the Year Award—all of whom have the knowledge, skills, and values needed to support people with IDD in achieving their life goals.

From Horizons, Jana Hoffman and Brittany Smale were recognized. Jana has worked at Horizons for eight years and Brittany for three. Both Jana and Brittany share a respect for the dignity and completeness of the people in Horizons’ programs.

In the dome

Horizons’ 2016 DSP nominees!

In her worldview, Jana is inherently person centered. She embraces person centered values and employs person centered techniques. When interacting with the people she supports, Jana recognizes their unique attributes and potential. She has exceptional skills and stealth approaches to working with people with IDD, along with the intuitive capacity to understand the person beneath the label.

Jana is respected and admired, quiet and confident, assertive and charismatic. She leads by example and compels others to be their best. Watching her work is like reading a “How To” book—she seamlessly incorporates ideas, strategies, and values to help people achieve their personal goals and greater autonomy. She does this with a gentle spirit and sense of ease: you don’t notice what she’s done until you see the end result. When the people she supports accomplish something you didn’t know they could, that’s when you realize: Jana made this happen.

Jana works well with people who have significant behavioral challenges, people who have extremely high needs, and people who struggle physically or socially. She treats people as individuals without categorizing them, and it works. She makes people feel good about themselves, and it works. Her positivity is contagious, infecting the people she supports and helping them succeed.

Jana with Alliance staff

Jana accepts her nomination as a DSP finalist from Alliance Colorado staff, Ellen Jensby and Josh Rael.

To come up with new ideas to improve people’s lives, Jana taps into her creativity. She discovers new recipes for dinner and unexplored areas of the community for activities. She presents new topics of conversation, unusual games, and unfamiliar faces. In her creativity, Jana is patient and generous. She leads people to new places and waits for them to adapt, accept, decline, or succeed. She wants people to experience life on their own terms, with their own perspective.

Brittany Smale, our other nominee, works weekend shifts at two of our most challenging homes. Residents have high medical and behavioral needs and, at times, Brittany is the only staff for the entire shift. She takes this in stride and no one misses a beat.

Working independently and efficiently, Brittany takes extraordinary care of the people in our programs, paying particular attention to their health. As an LPN, she comes into the office on her time off to talk to her supervisor or agency nurse, following up on health concerns experienced over the weekend. Brittany’s medical knowledge and expertise surpass what’s expected of a DSP and this brings comfort and relief.

Michael, Bob and Brittany

Michael Toothaker, Representative Bob Rankin, Brittany Smale

As a strong natural advocate, Brittany sees people’s strengths rather than their limitations. Her work is predicated on the belief that all people can learn, improve, succeed, and flourish. Her language is person centered and spoken without a trace of negativity, making her a solid support and a consistent leader.

Brittany and Michael

A good team.

Brittany’s actions and words are always a variation on the theme: what can we do to help the people we serve? Her gentle, calm demeanor puts people at ease. Her ability to manage everyone’s needs—the daily details and the big picture—keeps her in high regard among coworkers. She is reliable, dependable, and willing to excel.

When quality is defined at the point of interaction between the DSP and the person with a disability, we feel fortunate to have both Jana and Brittany to fulfill Horizons’ mission.

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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

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.