“Signs” of caring

Michelle and Nancy sign languageMichelle Ortel (left) and Nancy Viets communicate the word for love in American sign language during one of the recent classes held at Choices In Community Living. Michelle, who is Choices’ billing clerk, graduated from the Sign Language program at Sinclair Community College. She volunteered to teach the class for staff who are interested in learning to sign to enhance communication skills with the people they serve. Nancy is the coordinator for Choices’ Adult Day Program.





Golf for Choices

golf outingElements IV Interiors will be hosting their 9th Annual Charity Golf Outing on July 18 at Cassel Hills Golf Course in Vandalia. Registration will begin at 12:30. Shotgun start will be at 1:30. Choices In Community Living will be one of the community organizations that will benefit from this year’s Outing, along with Paws for Ability.

Elements IV Interiors employees recently donated personal care and other items to people served by Choices as part of their community outreach. If you would like to have a great time golfing, meet the caring and generous people of Elements IV Interiors and help raise funds in support of Choices In Community Living, please call 937-918-1000 or rsvp@elmentsiv.com.
View the event flyer here.



Donald Rice inducted into Hall of Fame

Donnie - Hall of FameDonald Rice (Choices In Community Living) was inducted into the Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame in Dayton in April. Donnie, as he prefers, was inducted for his efforts in the area of advocacy. Following is his nomination that led to him being selected for the 2015 class of the Hall of Fame.

Donnie is an individual who has stared adversity in the face on multiple occasions. He is a man of deep moral character who has turned life-challenging situations into positive motivators. He is a person who encourages others to look within to find their abilities. As an advocate, he has served as president of the Kuntz Center (MONCO/Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services) Advocacy Council and  on the Montgomery County Board’s Advocacy Council. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Miami Valley In-Ovations housing board, which provides housing for individuals with disabilities.

Donnie spoke at a Montgomery County Commission meeting last year to advocate for changes in signage that would eliminate labeling of individuals as “handicapped”,  part of a statewide effort (House Bill 265) to eliminate that word from parking and other signage and replace it with accessible. He also was a speaker at Leadership Dayton’s 2015 Human Services Day, where he immediately connected with the audience, sharing the impact that Human Services Levy funds have on his life.

Donnie’s friendliness and ability to communicate so openly, honestly and effectively has inspired and continues to inspire people to support individuals with disabilities, while encouraging individuals with disabilities to be active and positive role models, self-advocates and advocates for others.


Tom Weaver addresses Senate committee

Tom Weaver, Executive Director of Choices In Community Living, appeared before the Ohio Senate Medicaid Committee on May 14 to advocate on behalf of Choices Direct Care Professionals, as well as other DSPs from across Ohio. Following is the message Tom shared to encourage lawmakers to support higher wages for people who care for people with developmental disabilities:

My name is Tom Weaver and I am Executive Director of Choices In Community Living. Choices provides residential, day programs and non-medical transportation services for over 250 people in Montgomery, Clark, Preble and Madison counties and employs over 285 people. It is an important and valuable service we provide for those 250 individuals and the community; we are the head and feet, the smiles, the problem solvers, the caring and committed people who daily guide and assist individuals with developmental disabilities to build safe, healthy and meaningful lives in their communities.

I am here today to request that the Ohio Senate fully fund the Governor’s developmental disabilities funding initiatives in HB 64 as introduced. HB 64 includes a significant investment of new state monies into our system for the first time in over a generation. It is a comprehensive, finely interwoven approach to many of our system’s immediate needs and is responsive in it approach to both the external and internal pressures our system currently faces.

I would like to touch briefly on one issue of particular importance. For those of us responsible for providing services on a daily basis, the single most critical issue we face is recruiting and retaining a quality workforce. We could easily fill this entire room and into the lobby with those who would explain in earnest the day to day challenges involved. We know without question that the single biggest challenge facing Ohio’s DD system is our direct care workforce.

Of course, workforce challenges are not unique to developmental disabilities. Aetna led the way by announcing that pay was a critical factor in attracting and nurturing a strong workforce. Wal-Mart has made front page national news explaining its challenges and responses. Likewise, McDonald’s has made headlines as its workers complain of low wages. But if I may, and in all due respect to Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, running a cash register compares little to the responsibilities and expectations we place on direct care staff and the consequences of mistakes. Yet the wages we pay are comparable and sometimes less.

We don’t have holidays in the provision of direct services. Over 50% of our staff work more than one job. Over 20% are eligible for and benefit from public assistance programs, such as food stamps, housing subsidy or health care subsidy. They don’t want to be dependent on these programs and would gladly exchange their subsidies for a wage increase. The lack of an available and willing workforce puts more pressure on existing staff to work overtime, resulting in inevitable burnout, creating a Catch 22 situation. Our direct care vacancy rates are higher than we have ever seen. When we are asked to provide new services for the first time we are beginning to say NO because we don’t believe we will be able to hire the staff to provide the services.

We don’t let this distract from the real commitment and passion that we see on a regular basis. Let me share a quick story that speaks to the commitment of my staff. Bill was a man with a developmental disability who moved around a lot in his life. His early life was home with his family before being placed at Columbus Developmental Center. He then came back to the Dayton area where we got to know him. For over 10 years he shared a home with us with three other men. He was a fun loving guy whom we learned to love and respect, even though he struggled in building close and trusting relationships with others, which often times led to trouble with roommates and others. But our staff always had an encouraging word and provided the support he needed to help him know he was loved and respected.

When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer, he worried greatly, as would anyone. Our staff were there to comfort him, to coordinate his doctor visits and other medical care. They provided the support for his diet. They made sure he took his medication properly. They provided ongoing feedback to his medical team. They helped him stay connected to his remaining family and friends. They helped him through chemo treatments. They were the ones providing comfort through sleepless nights and days of nausea and pain. As he approached the end of his life, he asked if he could stay home and not be sent away. Without question our staff supported his decision and were with him at his bedside, holding his hand, giving him their love until the moment he passed. They had fought alongside him as he struggled to live and grieved when they lost someone they loved. This is important, difficult and consuming work, and for this, staff earn less than if they worked at a big box store!

HB 64 as introduced included in its developmental disabilities funding initiatives a 6% rate increase targeted for direct care wages in the home and community waivers. This is the first time an administration has identified and recognized that workforce is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.  A 6% increase will not prove a complete panacea to this issue, but it is welcomed and appreciated and will prove helpful and impactful.

While I have talked in large measure about our workforce challenges, I want to be clear that the new funding in the budget is a package and needs to be addressed as such. The initiatives are interconnected and are intended to respond to systemic needs as a whole. Unfortunately, Am. Sub. HB 64 as passed by the House resulted in a significant funding cut. This puts in jeopardy the Governor’s new funding initiatives, including the 6% rate increase. Please vote to restore funding for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to the introduced levels.




What will you do?

Do you know people who are dedicated, loyal, and very hard-working who struggle to make ends meet because of what they get paid? Do you know anyone who has to work more than one job to care for his/her family? Do you know anyone who works full-time but still has to rely on community services, such as food stamps? Do you know anyone who can’t afford anything more than the most basic health care coverage and who worries every day about him/her or a family member getting sick?

Our answer to each of those questions is yes. As you continue reading, your answer will be yes as well. You will know some of them by name. Others you will know by their work. They are the people who make it possible for Resident Home, our partner agency Choices In Community Living and agencies like our across Ohio and the nation to serve our residents. They are our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs.) We would not and could not exist without them. They are the best advocates our residents have. Now is the time we can advocate for them.

Read the rest of this and other articles in our Home Address newsletter here.



Choices runners in colorful 5K

Clark County run with CICl staffChoices staff members Amy Jewsikow, Shawn Valentine and Cassie Martin supported the Clark County Board of Developmental Disabilities by participating in their Dye Hard 5k Run in April. The Run is considered Clark County’s most colorful run. Every kilometer runners got “blasted” with safe, eco-friendly colored power that transformed them into a Technicolor canvas of fun.

Shawn finished first in the 30-39 year old age division.

Choices supports homes and other services for individuals in Clark County.


Christina Moore receives regional recognition

Helping to honor Christina (third from left) as she accepted her Spirit Award were (l-r) Nancy Banks, Superintendent, Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services; Nancy Ritchey and her nominator, Choices Program Director Jennifer Albright.

Helping to honor Christina (third from left) as she accepted her Spirit Award were (l-r) Nancy Banks, Superintendent, Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services; Nancy Ritchey and her nominator, Choices Program Director Jennifer Albright.

Christina Moore has been a staff member at Choices In Community Living since 2008. She currently serves as Program Manager for two homes and has an independent contract to serve one individual. In ceremonies held at the Mandalay Banquet Center on April 24, Christina was awarded the 2015 Spirit Award, one of the regional Erin Ritchey Memorial Awards presented to recognize the exemplary service of professionals in the field of developmental disabilities, as well as business and community leaders and individuals with developmental disabilities. The Spirit Award is presented to an individual or group other than direct services, such as administrators, managers and supervisors working in the field.

One of the homes she manages began services in 2014 for three individuals. Just about everything was new with this home – new individuals being served, new families to support and new staff to train and supervise. In her nomination by Program Director Jennifer Albright, it was noted how adeptly she managed all those factors during those first months filled with challenges that come with everything and everyone being new. Not only did she create a safe and nurturing environment for the three people, she worked hand in hand with families so that they would be comfortable and assured as well. She formed a strong and positive relationship with the families that continues to grow.

She was involved in developing a Behavior Support Plan to assist the individuals as they adapted to their new home and new people around them. She successfully implemented that plan and works with staff to assure it is used consistently. One of the things the individuals and their families wanted was to be active. That’s all they had to tell her. Now there are at least five activities every week!

She works one-on-one with one person who lives independently. For Christina, that means she has made both a professional and personal commitment to him, which means a call to him every day of the week, even those days when she is not working.  She encourages the individuals in her homes to call her whenever they want and they do that on a frequent basis. She is always just that one phone call away.

Nothing illustrates the depth of her dedication more than her service last summer. She lost her mother, followed just one month later by the death of her father-in-law. While dealing with her own family losses, she made sure everything was taken care of for the people she serves. She called every day, still making decisions and leading her staff. The closing words of her nomination sum up what Christina brings to Choices, her team and those she serves – it  would be hard to find a better example of spirit and service than Christina Moore!

This was the 26th anniversary of the Erin Ritchey Memorial Awards, held in conjunction with the induction ceremonies of the Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame and presented annually by Kenneth and Nancy Ritchey. The Awards are named in memory of their daughter Erin who died in an automobile accident in 1988 at seven years of age. She had been attending the Early Intervention Center. At the time of her death she had joined the mainstream of public education as a student at Residence Park Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio.