Community Connections recently held an annual forum to update interested community members on our current priorities and get feedback on what we should be doing as an organization. Because we are in the middle of developing our strategic long-range plan, it is a critical time for us to understand the needs and wishes of the communities we serve.
Like many nonprofits and public entities, we face an uncertain future. The Medicaid funding that supports the majority of our services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is inadequate and unsustainable. Medicaid has also been the target of recent Republican efforts to cut federal expenditures. Costs of business continue to rise as health insurance premiums skyrocket and the living wage creeps ever upward. Changes in federal rules for home- and community-based services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will require significant structural changes for all organizations like ours.
Hence, much of our strategic planning is focused on the core of our mission and how we reach it. Our mission is to create opportunities for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives in our community. How can we be more efficient and effective in reaching that mission?
These were questions that we posed to participants at our forum and that we will continue to pose to our stakeholders and community members over the coming weeks as we develop our strategic plan. The answers we have received so far have been enlightening but not surprising.
A couple of themes are already emerging. One centers on the concept of “in our community.” Members of our board, our staff and community partners have all recognized the necessity of community involvement in reaching our mission. Without putting efforts into educating our neighbors and informing our community’s support of people with intellectual disabilities, we will always be creating dependence on our services rather than creating opportunities.
That unintended dependence is the other theme we are seeing. We have to figure out how to support people with intellectual disabilities where needed and get out of the way the rest of the time. Society frequently portrays adults with intellectual disabilities as needing to be sheltered and coddled. Even as professionals dedicated to ensuring people with intellectual disabilities are treated with dignity and respect, we have often fallen into those paternalistic patterns of thinking. If they are truly to be fully participating members of our community, people with disabilities cannot afford to continue receiving services they do not need or want. The taxpayers can’t afford it, either.
Thanks to Herald readers and residents of Southwest Colorado for voting Community Connections Runner-up for Best Nonprofit in the Best of Durango Awards 2017. We are humbled and honored by the recognition. With your input and support, we hope to continue to improve and develop better ways to meet our mission.
Please call us at 259-2464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and suggestions.
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.