Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ruling may not be best for developmentally disabled

8/25/2014

An initiative to further integrate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the community for work and residential life rather than in a “sheltered workshop” environment will significantly change operations locally and around the country. While this could be a time for organizations, such as Ottawa’s COF (Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties), to whine and feel sorry for themselves for getting the shaft and being underappreciated by the federal government for the services it provides instead COF is being proactive.

The ruling issued in March by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services touches nearly every aspect of the COF’s operation. Rather than sitting back and waiting to be told how to deal with changes within its industry, it is leading the way on finding new solutions that both protect the people it serves, its employees and its funding.

An initiative to further integrate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the community for work and residential life rather than in a “sheltered workshop” environment will significantly change operations locally and around the country. While this could be a time for organizations, such as Ottawa’s COF (Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties), to whine and feel sorry for themselves for getting the shaft and being underappreciated by the federal government for the services it provides instead COF is being proactive.

The ruling issued in March by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services touches nearly every aspect of the COF’s operation. Rather than sitting back and waiting to be told how to deal with changes within its industry, it is leading the way on finding new solutions that both protect the people it serves, its employees and its funding.

CMS’s “Final Rule” is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and what is known as the Supreme Court’s “Olmstead Decision” which provides the lawful backing to ensure equal rights and full integration of people who have disabilities, Chris Patton said in a previous Herald report on the coming changes. Many people, including those at COF, may disagree with the direction of the rulings but they are adhering to them so they can create solutions with the least negative impact on the people it serves.

The ruling essentially implies those people with developmental disabilities are better served by being integrated with the general population for work and residential living rather than being in a sheltered environment of working primarily with other people who share a disability and are assisted by paid staff workers. This new method may work fine for higher functioning disabled people but not for the balance of them many of whom may not enjoy the supportive and accepting environment they currently work in at COF’s sheltered workshop. Outside that workshop some developmentally disabled people are bullied and otherwise mistreated.

It would be great to eliminate bullying but until that happens mainstreaming the developmentally disabled certainly has some downsides too.

Patton and his management team and board members intend to implement a new business model using existing staff to meet the criteria established by Medicaid, which provides 90 percent of its funding, albeit not as singular building-focused. The new business model calls for the same services umbrella but undertaken by people not in the employ of the primary provider. In some cases, the changes may seem more like moving the proverbial deck chairs around rather than making a real change though it clearly will be by mandate more complicated.

The changes are bound to foster feelings of uneasiness from parents and loved ones of those disabled people who enjoy the nurturing work and living environment provided by COF however they’ll have little time to mourn the changes. Though the federal mandate allows five years for complete implementation of changes it also states providers should undertake the changes as soon as possible too. COF’s proactive stance ensures it will control its own destiny rather than being marginalized by them. That ability to adapt can help ensure the organization continues to be financially stable and thus able to continue offering needed services to the intellectually and developmentally disabled — just in a new setting.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Maya Angelou

Jeanny Sharp,

Editor and Publisher

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