Arkansas Support Network Offers Multiple Programs
August 17, 2016
With 800 employees spread over several locations in the state, the people of Arkansas Support Network, under the leadership of Vire, are engaged in work to achieve the goals captured by the mission and vison statements of the organization:
We recognize and support every person’s right to be included in the life of the community.
It is our belief that every person has the right to live in a home and in the community as an active and accepted member. Our intent is to support the presence and participation of children and adults with developmental disabilities in their homes and communities.
We envision a future where individuals with developmental disabilities have power and choice in making decisions and directing their lives; have relationships with people whom they love and care for and who love and care for them; receive recognition for the gifts they bring to our community; are actively involved in the communities where they live; have meaningful employment free of discrimination; and have opportunities to live healthy, safe, and enjoyable lives.
A sampling of ASN programs:
The family support program, begun in 1988, is designed to help families keep their children (age birth to 18) at home instead of out-of-home placement. It provides a lot of support, a little bit of cash assistance, and public school advocacy for these parents. It is the only true family support program in the state. Vire explained that no one else does this work because the state does not allow any administrative costs. ASN committed to raising the administrative support money to do it years ago, but it is difficult for other organizations to take on a program that puts them in the hole.
ASN’s Community Parent Resource Center operates with a federal grant from the department of education and provides additional support focusing on advocacy in the public schools and helping parents see that their kids get a better education. Targeted populations are Latinos, Marshallese, and the kids with disabilities who are involved in the juvenile justice system, which is an alarmingly increasing number, according to Vire.
ASN provides supportive living services under a Medicaid waiver as an alternative to living in an institution, including both in-home support, and support to adults who have no other family so they, too, can live in their own space. The program is, on average, one-third of the cost of institutional placement. ASN does an assessment of what an individual needs and bases services and costs on actual hours. If a client needs 10 hours a week, the state is not charged for 24 hours, 365 days a year of service. For comparison, in an institution with 500 people, the state is charged the same rate across the board for everyone although obviously some people need more and some less. The individual contracts done through ASN provide an alternative to institutionalization. In terms of budget, this program is by far the largest that ASN undertakes, and comprises about $15 million of the total $19 million budget. Unfortunately, there are 3,000 people on a waiting list for the waiver in the state of Arkansas, and the legislature has failed to do anything about it. Vire’s passion for this needed change is evident even as he speaks quietly about his daily work on the issue.
ASN operates vocational programs as well. A drop-in day program for people unable to work offers individualized programming for clients. Staffers work to implement a plan, from painting to cooking to recreation to whatever the individual’s interests. In one collaborative effort with the university, they built raised bed gardens that are wheelchair accessible for clients to grow their own vegetables.
The supported employment program gives assistance to clients in finding jobs and then provides job coaches who work with them.
WorkBridge is a program funded through vocational rehabilitation services in which referrals spend half a day in the classroom working on interviewing skills, resume building, and job searches and the other half of the day involved in the running of Encore Kids. In this resale store for kids’ clothing, their tasks include laundering the donations, researching prices, stocking shelves, and working sales transactions. It is a time-limited program for clients, with 10 days of assessment and 60 days of “work-adjustment training.” After that, ASN helps these clients secure jobs, and boasts an 85 percent successful job placement rate.
A newer program is a partnership with Wal-Mart for on-site job training at a print and mail distribution center. ASN pays job coaches and transportation costs for their clients who are paid wages by Wal-Mart and receive on the job training. ASN then assists clients in locating employment outside of Wal-Mart after gaining valuable work experience.
By Lori Foster, communications assistant