Community Connections: Dotting our I’s for independence

Deirdre Pepin/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Most of you know about Horizons Specialized Services because of the individuals we support. You see them working at restaurants or stores, volunteering at races, reading at the library or skiing on the slopes. They’re your friends. In our community, people of all abilities make meaningful contributions.

What you don’t see, though, is what it takes for Horizons to actually operate. To provide Medicaid-funded services, we must receive program approval from oversight agencies who survey us on a regular basis. These agencies rely on inspections as a barometer for the success of the people we support.

In the last year, our Supported Living Services and Children’s Extensive Support programs were surveyed. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment surveys these programs every three years. Unannounced surveys are conducted by a team who looks at our policies and procedures, health and safety plans, emergency preparedness and living situations. Surveys ensure our facilities are safe, accessible, and individualized and our services maximize independence by increasing real life skills. They assure we respect individuals’ rights; connect people to the community; provide medical care in home environments; help people access therapy, adaptive equipment and assistive technology; and promote self-advocacy.

Surveyors acknowledged Horizons staff for understanding the people we support, the personalized quality of our homes, and the prevalent person-centered philosophy. Our emergency preparedness was commended for its connection to the city, hospital, fire department and county alert system — and this is a testament to our community’s values and priorities.

Surveyors noticed first-rate results to our comprehensive consumer satisfaction survey. Most parents and guardians rated Horizons services as excellent and believe we’re guiding their family member in the right direction. Parents cited how well direct support staff treat their family member, and they appreciate the community integration and amount of opportunities for authentic inclusion. Our satisfaction survey also indicates that people in our programs believe their case managers are knowledgeable about local resources and offer more choices because of their expertise.

There is evaluation, too, for our Early Intervention program. The Office of Early Childhood in the Colorado Department of Human Services tracks the timeliness of our services on a quarterly basis and the quality of our Individual Family Support Plans on a monthly basis. Early Childhood’s indicators assess our ability to meet the 45-day timeline from a child’s referral to screening, evaluation, and writing of an IFSP; 28-day timeline to start services; and transition to preschool programs. Colorado set 90 percent as a target score, and Horizons scored 100 percent for all indicators.

Compliance to state and federal regulations often takes a backseat to personal success stories, but Horizons needs program approval to exist. Meeting established criteria for operation allows us to get people out into the community to create meaningful relationships, get jobs, and determine their own, unique paths.

“All of this oversight leads to increased expectations and improvement,” Adult Program Director Tatum Heath said. “Once we demonstrate that our paperwork is in compliance, we can focus on what matters most — providing quality, person-centered supports.”

Horizons works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. Deirdre Pepin in the resource development and public relations coordinator for Horizons. For more information, call 970-879-4466 or visit Friends of Horizons on Facebook.

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