In 1987, President Ronald Reagan designated March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Reagan said, in part: “I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities, both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.” This declaration was a pivotal milestone in broadening the awareness of the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Yet, while great strides have been made, a tremendous amount of help is still needed with developmental disability services.
A Plan Put into Action
The NYS Office for People with Developmental Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is responsible for coordinating services for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities in New York. The office recently put out a strategic plan that addresses the many evolving needs of the individuals they serve and its programs’ further development and improvement.
Three priorities that stand out in the plan are; workforce, jobs, and housing. These are areas of concern that we at Community Mainstreaming Associates work with daily and share an eagerness to see improvement in.
Developmental Disability Services: Strategies for Improvement
The following are ways in which the OPWDD proposes addressing some of the more pressing needs and concerns of the IDD community.
Direct support professionals (DSPs) are essential in the daily care of people with IDDs. With the constant shortage of these vital workers, OPWDD is making significant new investments in direct support professionals. There will be a focus on recruiting and retaining DSPs through marketing campaigns, enhancing overtime pay, and developing more career pathways. In addition, there is a focus on improved training of DSPs and enhanced technology to assist them in fulfilling their job duties and enhancing their careers.
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities want to be part of the workforce in their communities. However, only 34% of adults with IDDs aged 21-64 are employed. Part of the OPWDD plan to improve this is more access to employment programs. There will also be a more concentrated effort on training staff and care managers to prepare individuals to become more independent and better equipped to enter the workforce. Additionally, there will be greater emphasis on seeking and acquiring employment techniques.
There is no area of developmental disability services in New York State that needs greater assistance than housing. Thousands are on waiting lists, and the OPWDD recognizes that finding affordable housing and residential services are essential for adults with developmental disabilities. As a result, individuals in crisis must have enhanced support in acquiring a residence, and certified residences must have their capacities maximized. OPWDD must make an effort to look for additional housing supports for those in need and reforms some of the regulations and financial considerations currently in place with residential providers.
Community Mainstreaming Associates’ Commitment to Developmental Disability Services
As we hope for positive results from all of the goals OPWDD has articulated in their strategic plan, we continue our commitment to assisting those in need with our services. We continue to develop innovative programs such as our e-Academy job training program, and our CORE program without walls. We are working with families and other partners on developing model residential supports in affordable housing on Long Island. Our programs are designed to help individuals live more independent, meaningful lives within their communities. We have all come a long way, but much remains to be done.
With your continued support and donations, we can continue providing our services and adapting to the needs of all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.