The Southeastern Social Care Collective is a new venture, aimed at launching innovative and out-of-the-box initiatives because we believe that the existing social service system is broken and perpetuates a cycle of hardship and marginalization for our loved ones with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. While we intend to one day offer a multitude of programs, our signature project is aimed at providing hands-on training to individuals who are pursuing a career in the field of direct support.
It is very challenging to secure financial investment for these types of programs because if something is new and truly innovative, there is not yet the data to support its ability to be successful. And so we have to work within the funding mechanisms that are available to us and will allow us to move in a forward direction.
The first program in development by the SSCC will be overseen by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and is being created to provide training to direct support staff (not folks with I/DD) who desire to become more empowered as instructors and better able to recognize every moment as a teachable opportunity. Initially, BCBAs in the program will be paid through a service called Specialized Consultative Services, which is covered by Medicaid through the Innovations Waiver. Private pay is also an option, but that limits access to only those few who have the means to pay for ongoing consultative services and who could most likely provide training for their direct support staff without having to lean on state funds in order to do so.
Our hope is that, after several years of data collection, we will be able to demonstrate to the State that individuals who go through our program have increased longevity in the field and a markedly improved capability as a support provider, able to foster skill development and positive health outcomes thereby decreasing the need for adults with I/DD to require more intensive, and expensive, support services throughout the course of their lifetime. We believe that this data will also pave the way for additional funding support and allow us to have greater flexibility in the way we are able to invite folks to participate.
We have to start somewhere. The intention is to begin with a very small cohort and keep the door open for adjustments and positive evolution as we grow and learn from our experiences. The only way we can become a successful program is to have a plan, a starting point, and an openness to altering that plan throughout the course of its development and in ways that meet the needs of the current cohort. We also have to be financially sustainable, and if we are able to meet our objectives (which we recognize will take a significant amount of time) the hope is that the money that is saved by generating better outcomes will be available to increase the number of slots that open up on the long waiver waiting list.
Sometimes we have to work within the system in order to change the system. There are a lot of programs that exist that are not a good fit for my son and his circumstances, but that I can still acknowledge and honor the hard work and authentic intention that has gone into putting those programs together. Just because they don’t meet my understanding of what is needed, does not mean that they are not wonderful and meaningful for others. In a world that has become so polarized and politicized in the ways we engage with each other as humans, I’d like to believe that within our community of parents of loved ones with I/DD, we can respect everyone’s unique path and approach to creating solutions for what is a very diverse landscape of need.
I have dedicated a significant amount of my life trying to create connections and opportunities that foster the construction of inclusive community engagement. I do not always do it well, and I do not know how to create a single thing that will work for everyone, but I am always trying. And being a person who tries is a very vulnerable experience. There is always the risk that someone will disagree with what I am doing, or how I am doing it. But I know my heart. And the people close to me know it, too. I hope that my life and the way that I have chosen to move through the world is reflected in the work that I continue to do to the very best of my ability, and with the sincerest of intentions.