I wonder if you could imagine trying to help someone who cannot clearly communicate his or her needs to you? Or help someone navigate our small community when they may look or move differently than their typical peers.
The Developmental Disabilities Program at Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness, founded in 1995, dedicates countless hours trying to ensure needs are met for this very diverse and unique population. They don’t allow the “label” to get in the way of treating each individual as a unique human being with many gifts and goals just like any other friend or neighbor.
Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions may impact day-to-day functioning and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.
The services provided to those enrolled enable people to stay in their home and remain independent, healthy, and safe. It also saves both the state and federal government money because we are providing supports and services that are more extensive in a less restrictive environment, in lieu of more expensive institutional-type care.
The center offers case management, family support, advocacy, program planning, protective services and resource development. Additional program responsibilities include eligibility determinations for services, foster home licensing and monitoring, crisis placements, protective services and assisting, monitoring and supporting personal support workers.
Through the tireless leadership of Jean Pekarek and two case managers, Tosca Rawls and Trisha Holcomb, the team provides exceptional client-driven services.
The total enrolled in developmental disabilities services grew from 21 to 35, a 40% increase 2014-17. Of those 36 served, 11 receive case management services, 18 receive in-home support services, 6 are in foster homes and there is one individual in 24-hour residential care. The program provides 3,132 hours of in-home services per month and employs 32 personal support workers, an increase of 75 percent since 2014.
In recent years, the system has had daunting challenges concerning funding and allocation of resources. In 2017, some services were cut by the Legislature for the 2017-19 biennium. The system was also tasked with identifying $12 million in general fund reductions during the 2017-19 biennium.
The program is considered robust and continues to grow although it’s not without challenges. Logistics of serving 36 unique clients can be daunting along with managing the anxieties of clients and families who are trying to forecast an uncertain future of Medicaid and the ACA.
Fortunately, a seasoned staff is prepared to roll with the tide and continue delivering love-filled care to one of our most vulnerable populations.
Chantay Jett is Executive Director of Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness.