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CHS News

Residential Services Expand to Accommodate Young Adults Turning 22

Cooperative For Human Services responded to a growing need for more housing options to support young adults with developmental disabilities as they transition from special education programs to adult services. In June 2019, the organization opened a residential program in Andover, MA to support up to five young adults with a wide range of abilities, hobbies and interests. The home is located on a tree-lined street of stately Colonial homes and is within a short walking distance to the heart of town. This proximity offers the individuals served with easy access to community activities, outdoor venues and opportunities for socializing. 

As the individuals settle into their new environment, they are supported to create a Vision for their unique interests, hopes and dreams which will then lead to setting goals through development of an Individual Service Plan (ISP). Person-centered Visions are a starting point, but the goals evolve and change as the person grows, matures and increases in independence.

Later that same month, the Cooperative For Humans Services opened a residential program near downtown Malden, MA to support young adults diagnosed with Autism disorder. The urban home features two apartments that serve up to four individuals and a third apartment which is home to a live-in manager. The goals for this type of living arrangement are first, to ensure the health and safety of each housemate, to foster the personal growth of the individuals’ served with continual staff support as needed and to promote maximum independence.

Each residential program, regardless whether located in a suburban or urban setting, has a focus on engagement and development of new relationships. The transition to a new home can be challenging, but engagement in hobbies and activities helps serve as an outlet for expression of feelings and aids in processing the changes. Open dialog with housemates, staff, family and friends is encouraged until housemates settle into a new routine and their personalized surroundings.

During the transition period, individuals are encouraged to expand their network of natural supports beyond school, family and paid staff.  Relationships in the community, with the potential to blossom into friendships, are particularly nurtured, as are those developed through shared experiences, hobbies and sports. It takes time to adjust to a new community, but functioning as an adult in an environment of greater independence is just the beginning of an entirely new life full of possibilities.

The Cooperative for Human Services Celebrates Summer at the Farm with 14 BBQs!

As the warm weather officially comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to reflect on all of the fantastic BBQ events we hosted this summer at Jackson Farm!
This summer the Cooperative for Human Services hosted 14 barbeques at Jackson Farm. We were so fortunate to be able to share these events with over 400 of our individuals, their families, and local neighbors and friends.

Everyone came together to prepare wonderful home cooked meals. We grilled everything from traditional hamburgers to Korean BBQ pork and apple wood smoked chicken! We also made tossed salads and grilled vegetable melodies using fresh fruits and vegetables harvested from our organic gardens at the Farm. Of course no BBQ would be complete without refreshing ice cream, cookies, and fruit salads, especially on the warmer days.

In addition to the amazing meals we shared together, everyone enjoyed the live music and yard games! Each of our BBQs featured a local musician or musicians who went above and beyond to include our individuals in the guitar strumming and tune singing! Yard games like tin can alley, corn hole, ring toss, and bocce were enjoyed by all!

Even our farm animals joined in the summer festivities! Some of our individuals chose to spend their time visiting with some of our farm animals including our very social Nubian goats, Bruce, Jackson, and Brown, our newly adopted Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig Maime, and of course our rabbits Salt & Pepper, guinea pig and chickens.
At the end of the evening, everyone left with a full belly, a smile, and goodies from the farm! Everyone received a CHS baseball t-shirt or baseball cap, freshly cut flowers and organic vegetables and herbs from our gardens.

Thank you to all our staff, volunteers, and members of the community who helped make these events such a success! All though the leaves have only just started to fall, we are already looking forward to all the events we have planned for next summer at the Farm!

Developing friendships, one day at a time

In May 2018, Cooperative for Human Services joined a collaborative effort with The ARC of Massachusetts and MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to participate in the Pathways to Friendship Project. The mutual goal is to elevate efforts in social inclusion by advancing relationships and friendships among people with and without disabilities. The initiative required a 2-year commitment of time and attention on the part of the organization to focus on the promotion of relationships. The ARC’s role is to provide facilitation, consultation and support while DDS continues to refine its Quality Enhancement tools and processes around social inclusion.

The company identified a cross-functional team of five project leaders who in turn, assessed and selected eight individuals of varying needs to participate in the initiative. Participants were evaluated with a survey to determine their baseline level of activities and will undergo an intermediate and end-point survey to collect data. On-going approaches to activities and participation in community events are documented regularly across the initiative and shared with the ARC. Project leaders meet with and share what is learned with other Pathways to Friendship teams based in 24 other member agencies in Massachusetts.

Over the last few months, the project team has made notable progress with the individuals selected. Once their interests were identified, participants began to explore their chosen areas of interest with staff. These include becoming a volunteer at a local shelter, delving into the world of comic book art, participating in monthly car modeling clubs, and making connections through local churches and YMCAs. It is the hope that through this initial experience, individuals will create meaningful ties with non-disabled people who can assist them to become contributing members of their communities.

As a Pathways to Friendships partner, the company was eligible to apply for a one-time Florence Finkle Fund grant on behalf of each participant. Florence Finkle was an original member of The ARC of Massachusetts and an advocate on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. All eight of the CHS participants received grants this year to assist them with purchases including club membership dues, sports equipment, appropriate church clothing, transportation to events and other types of supports. 

As the project nears its mid-point assessment, there is great excitement in the air as participants form long-term friendships in the community and share new hobbies with like-minded enthusiasts.

This Little Piggy . . . Came To Jackson Farm!

Welcome to two-year-old Mamie, the newest member of Cooperative for Human Services’ small animal therapy team, based at Jackson Farm. Along with Rambo the rabbit and our three new baby guinea piglets, April, May and June, Mamie is a one-of-a-kind Vietnamese pot bellied pig. She epitomizes the values of CHS — a gentle, friendly being who is working to achieve a fulfilling and inspiring life that encompasses community and healthy lifestyle.

As a baby, Mamie was shipped from her breeders in Texas to live with a family in Franklin, MA. Unfortunately, her owners did not know how to care for a pot bellied pig, so she was not given outdoor space to exercise, root, or wallow, and was fed doughnuts, cookies, and fast food.  At 200 pounds, her owners could no longer keep her, so they brought her to the MSPCA’s Nevins Farm in September 2018 to wait for a new, forever home. This is where CHS stepped in.

On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, CHS farm staff brought Mamie to her new home https://www.boston.com/news/animals/2019/01/24/amy-pig-mspca-adopted in a cozy, pig-outfitted stall in the big barn at Jackson Farm. She bravely withstood single-digit temperatures on her very first weekend with us, burrowed under the hay inside a tent of blankets that we added for extra insulation. On Friday the sun finally shone and our Mamie ventured out of the barn to explore her new  home. She wandered over to the goats and hens, snorting and sniffling, comfortably spending time with the other animals. She lingered in the field, seeming to delight in the warmth of the sunshine.

Mamie and all of us at CHS have some work to do to help this special pig:  She came to us 80 pounds overweight. The extra fat makes it hard for her to move, makes her depressed and lethargic, taxes her organs, joints, and systems, and obstructs her vision. We have committed to supporting her to address her special needs, with appropriate food, plenty of outdoor space to root, wallow, and roam, and daily piggy aerobics with farm staff or any residents or guests who come by and want to participate.  

The barn door is open all day and she has the entire field to roam in; hens, goats, bunnies, guinea pigs, staff, residents, and guests to visit; and a warm stall to return to at night. The more she can exercise, the sooner her health will improve. The more company, the happier our friendly pig will be.  Soon she’ll be able to enjoy a healthy pig lifestyle, and will add so much to our animal therapy program.

We intend to walk with her to help her regain her health, to scratch her behind the ears, or to toss a ball back and forth with her.  She’ll reward you with a wagging tail, a shiver of excitement, rolling over so you can rub her belly, and the affection and attention that make Vietnamese pot bellied pigs such good pets, loyal friends, and well-trained therapy animals.

Food Pantry Program Expands

Cooperative for Human Services continues to provide services and supports to an ever-increasing number of individuals in their homes and CHS residential programs. In November 2017, the organization established a Food Pantry to provide people served with no-cost food so that everyone has access to good nutrition and healthy options.

Recently, the organization expanded its partnership with the Food Donation Connection, a national non-profit matching company, and began to work directly with two well-known hospitality destinations, The Cheesecake Factory and Chipotle Restaurants, Burlington, MA. These partnerships increase the company’s ability to offer pre-cooked food and dinner entrees to individuals who may have poor cooking skills or are attempting to successfully manage a meager food budget.

The Food Pantry continued to expand its food distribution this summer when the organization doubled the size and capacity of its organic vegetable gardens. The company’s urban garden plot in Malden, MA also yielded a larger variety of vegetables that were distributed through the Food Pantry. In both locations, individuals learned about growing, nurturing and harvesting fresh produce as well as how to incorporate fresh vegetables as part of their daily food intake.

Several long-standing CHS cooking groups benefited from the Food Pantry and the garden-fresh produce.  Participants eagerly awaited vegetable deliveries which then influenced menu choices for what was to be prepared for that evening. People not only prepared the food, but also communed over good food and transported food home for another meal later in the week.

Through the Food Pantry, individuals have an opportunity to be introduced to new dining experiences that are often times outside the scope of their normal weekly food budgets. Roasted duck, goose pate, chutney, organic yogurt and brie cheese are just a few examples.

Food security — having access to enough food for an active, healthy life, is one of the many important components that Cooperative For Human Services provides through its Food Pantry, expanded business partnerships and organic farming sites.

CHS Expands Acquired Brain Injuries Services into Urban Setting

The Cooperative For Human Services opened its second home to support individuals with Acquired Brain
Injuries. The residence, located on Highland Avenue in Malden, MA, is occupied by individuals from the
local area which affords the residents opportunities to spend more time with friends and families as well
gain easy access to the vibrant, active urban culture offered by the city of Malden. The four-bedroom,
two-bathroom house applies all the best practices in assessable design to accommodate people with assistive medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers and mechanical lifts. The home’s layout includes a solarium where individuals can visit with guests or just enjoy a quiet space for reading and a self-serve coffee/tea bar in the kitchen area.

Financially and clinically eligible individuals in the ABI Waiver program funded by the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts are most often living in long-term care facilities or rehabilitation hospitals and require
24-hour residential supports. Their diagnoses may include injury from motor vehicle accidents, falls,
gunshot wounds, drug overdose, or stroke, for instance. Other qualifying diagnoses include Multiple
Sclerosis and Huntington’s Disease and many individuals have multiple medical complexities as well as
some degree of mobility impairment. Relocating back into the community is a multi-step transition
process that varies in length and complexity based on each individual’s unique needs.

A team of clinical and healthcare coordination managers from the Cooperative For Human Services
works in tandem with DDS Service Coordinators to first meet the individuals, learn their unique stories
and assess their specific needs. Family involvement is an important component of the process and
family members help to determine when and how the individuals will transition into the community.
Once the decision to relocate has been made by the individuals, a transition plan is jointly developed
and executed by the CHS team prior to their arrival into their new home. The plan includes visits to the
house, numerous social events designed to introduce new house mates, shopping for household goods,
decision support about lifestyle choices and answers to many questions and concerns before moving
day.

Once moving day arrives, the house is fully prepared and trained staff are ready to receive the new
residents. It’s a busy day for everyone and as individuals exercise their right to make choices and
express preferences, the individuals and staff begin to learn more about each other forming new
relationships and the foundation to friendships.

At Highland Avenue, moving day was exciting. But what made it even more memorable is that everyone
celebrated the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship!

Prader-Willi Syndrome Residential Program Available Soon in Andover, MA

Families affected by PWS, in partnership with Cooperative For Human Services, are planning to provide person-centered services in a newly renovated home.

About the Services  

The five-bedroom, three bath colonial home is located in the heart of beautiful Andover, Massachusetts within walking distance of town activities and civic resources.

Supports provided include highly-trained 24-hour direct care, transportation, an experienced Clinical Supports team, healthcare coordination and nursing care, and service coordination with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Program offers a “food safe” environment.

Collaborate to customize and design person-centered services to meet the unique needs of your family member with Prader-Willi Syndrome.  Support services are flexible to anticipate change and choices, customized and designed to provide a full life.  Great opportunity for a parent adviser role in the program.

About Cooperative For Human Services

Families seeking services will partner with us to create unique supports for young adults with PWS. The Cooperative for Human Services Inc. is a multi-service, non-profit organization known for progressive thinking, transparency, creative care approaches and innovative use of technologies. To learn more about the agency, visit www.cooperativeforhs.org or call 781-538-4626 ext. 231.

 

CHS Expands Its Residential Services

Three young women with developmental disabilities moved into their new home located in Saugus, MA, bringing with them high energy and a keen interest to explore their new community. The residential program offering support on a 24-hour basis is one of only a very few that have opened in recent years in eastern Massachusetts.

Cooperative For Human Services continually uses a creative problem-solving approach to design  services for people with disabilities and housing is a critical component of these services. The four-bedroom  home is located in an upscale residential neighborhood near parks, shopping, entertainment and civic venues that serve as a springboard for individuals to connect to their new community. The women are supported by a veteran team of clinicians, healthcare professionals and direct support staff who are focused on their need for social inclusion. Staff assist the individuals to create personalized goals and programs that help each woman explore and participate in activities of their interest in the local area.

Staff and the individuals hosted a barbecue for family and friends in their spacious backyard the day after moving in to acknowledge their more independent lifestyle and to also celebrate their birthdays (which all happen to occur in the same month!).

Family members were especially pleased that the women live in a beautiful, newly renovated home with many places for gathering as well as private spaces for quiet conversation.

Carolyn Mueller, Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and Clinical Coordinator works directly with each person served. “It’s been exciting to open this new home for the individuals and I have enjoyed watching new friendships form among the women. Everyone is getting along well, they are kind to their housemates and enjoy going out together.”

Later this fall a fourth individual will join the household and receive supports as she transitions into her new home.

New PEX Card System Empowers Individuals

 

Cooperative for Human Services closely follows its twelfth Guiding Principle, “Work in partnership with others to maximize resources and alleviate duplication of effort” by continually seeking out new technologies to achieve its goals. Currently, the company serves as Representative Payee for over 150 individuals in its Residential, Individual Support Services and Guardianship programs. This requires CHS to manage, monitor, and document by hand, all spending of each individual’s monthly Social Security funds, other income and monetary gifts.

Historically, this financial process had been a de-centralized process monitored by field managers responsible for oversight of individual funds through direct access to the person’s bank account. On a regular basis, managers accessed and distributed spending funds to each individual, reconciled receipts and provided education to the individuals served about positive budgeting skills.

After researching new developments in the financial management field, Glen Charney*, Chief Financial Officer, identified the PEX card system as a way to consolidate and centralize funds management in the CHS main office, while reducing cash on-hand and alleviate processing of paper receipts in the field. With the PEX system, record keeping transitioned to the main office, managers no longer physically visited banks to act as signers for individual’s bank accounts, and the process saved significant time. The new system empowered individuals to manage their personal finances more independently, while also providing a higher level of security and accountability for funds.

The PEX card system looks and works like a credit card. It allows CHS to fund a card for each individual on a weekly basis based on their unique financial goals. The card is reset each week to the maximum allocation and if an individual wishes to make a larger, one-time purchase for items such as clothing or furniture, the amount can be increased above the individuals’ weekly spending maximum. This flexibility feature was especially important for ease of use. The card can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted and removes the need to retain large amounts of cash-on-hand in people’s homes where it can be subject to loss. Since credit cards are more prominently used in the community than cash, this also helps individuals prepare to live in a cashless society.

For those situations where credit cards are not accepted, managers request cash for the special purchase or event. Weekly receipts for each card are automatically generated by PEX and using those records, the CHS Finance Department pays the monthly PEX bill from each person’s fund. The company can more efficiently monitor spending for individuals and provide feedback on financial trends to the managers. There are additional controls included in the system such as the ability to restrict the amount spent at one particular store, if needed, to ensure that funds are spent appropriately and to support the individual’s success in learning money management skills.

The PEX card system has been in use in the Residential Services programs since January and will be implemented in the Individual Supports Services and Guardianship Programs later this year. To date, the program has greatly streamlined the process for funding individuals served, and has also significantly improved record keeping. Shifting the financial responsibilities from field managers to the Finance Department has allowed the managers more time to meet the needs of the people served rather than divert attention to the administrative function. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

*Content contributed by Glen Charney, Chief Financial Officer, Cooperative for Human Services, Inc.

 

Love Endures

On an unusually warm February evening, during the ride back to their apartment, Sonja mentioned that their wedding anniversary was coming up in June and that it would be big one.  “It’s 30 years”, she told me.

“Really?!”, I asked, “do you guys want to do anything?”

“Yes”, said Bob, “we want to renew our wedding vows”.

I tried hard not to hit the car in front of me.

And that’s how The Wedding of the Century came to be (actually, The Second Wedding of the Century).

Sonja and Bob are attached to the Cooperative for Human Services (CHS) whose mission reads, in part, to “…provide programs and services that support community inclusion, personal enrichment and quality of life for individuals with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities…”

On June 15, 2018, they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in style. They arrived at Sacred Heart Parish – where they’d originally been married – in a limousine.  Bob tires easily now so he sat in a pew near the altar until he was met by Sonja, who was escorted by Kevin Leahy – the Executive Director of the Agency. When asked if was nervous, Bob said, “no, I already did this once”.

After they’d shared a kiss – amid loud cheers and clapping from all of their guests – there was the reception. Bob’s favorite part was the cake. He wanted to smear it on Sonja’s face but being the perfect gentleman that he is, he did not. Sonja’s favorite part was the dancing: she is particularly fond of The Electric Slide.

But things haven’t always been so easy for Bob and Sonja.  They dated for several years before they became engaged.  They went to a store to buy what Sonja thought was a promise ring.  The sales clerk told her that it was an engagement ring and right there, Bob got down on one knee.  He had practiced with CHS staff to learn just how to do it. Their wedding was talked about for months afterward not only by the couple, but by the many CHS staff who had arranged it.

Statistically, persons with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely than non-disabled persons to become victims of violence, abuse, or neglect.  Both Bob and Sonja are part of those statistics.  During their first year of marriage, Sonja’s past caught up with her.  She became so distraught that it caused depression, resulting in hospitalization.  CHS staff supported her throughout.

Bob’s issues, coupled with an inability to articulate what he was experiencing, caused him to lash out in inappropriate ways and again, CHS staff was there modeling correct behavior, providing counseling and adding extra staff in the home.

When Bob became ill, CHS again circled the wagons.  Bob has weekly doctor’s appointments.  CHS Staff arranges all of his appointments, provides transportation and meets with the hospital staff.  CHS staff is with the couple 7 days per week to ensure their well-being.  There are also clinicians who check in weekly regarding their emotional health.

Marriage is a difficult enterprise in the best of circumstances. It entails compromise and honesty, while still trying to maintain a sense of individuality.  Bob and Sonja make it look easy.  That is a testament not only to them, but to the countless CHS staff who have helped them navigate the institution of marriage.

Congratulations to Bob and Sonja; may you have many more years of wedded bliss.

 

*Content contributed by Kerstin Lochrie, Individual Supports Program Manager at Cooperative for Human Services, Inc.

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Cooperative for Human Services

Cooperative for Human Services