iCircle Services - Supporting Individual Choice and Empowerment
August 2013


Issue #28

Message from the Board

Greetings! Throughout the course of this year we have been busy planning and collaborating together to develop iCircle Services as a DISCO. It is our mission to be a service portal where individuals with developmental disabilities and their families can self-direct, advocate, and secure the supports and services that best fit their needs. We are guided by individual choice, inclusion, diversity, cultural competence, respect, community, learning and empowerment for those we serve. And at the heart of our mission are folks like Michael J. Kennedy.  We would like to share with you some of Michael’s thoughts on the People First Waiver and the future of services in New York State (see below). His words can offer reflection and insight for all of us, on the driving force behind our mission, during this time of transition.

iCircle looks forward to continuing to work alongside, and in partnership with individuals and families to best plan and shape the future of services. We are setting up focus groups across our region to gather additional information from individuals and families that will help us to finalize the development of the iCircle DISCO.  This is also an opportunity for us to network with individuals and families who may have an interest in serving on iCircle’s regional advisory councils. We look forward to meeting with these focus groups in the next few weeks and appreciate the efforts of our providers who have invited individuals and families to participate.

Thoughts on the People First Waiver

My name is Michael J. Kennedy, and I am the field assistant for the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) central region. I have worked for SANYS since it started in 1986. I grew up in three different New York State institutions for fifteen years of my life. I suffered abuse in both Rome Developmental Center and Syracuse Developmental Center. I got out of Syracuse Developmental Center in 1983, and I have navigated the state service system ever since. I used self-advocacy all my life to let people know what I wanted and how to best support me. I now get to hire and fire my own staff, and I control how my staff supports me. I have lived in my own house in North Syracuse for the past two years, with my wife of twenty years. I used self-advocacy to make not only my life better, but for all people with disabilities. I have worked to make change in our local communities, as well as, helped make change on a national level through various legislations with fellow self-advocates. I am currently writing my autobiography, and I am hoping it will be out before the end of this year.

As part of my job, I sit on many committees regarding the new waiver including Managed Care committees, care coordination committees, etc. I have been closely following the new waiver as it develops because it affects not only my life, but all individuals with developmental disabilities. I see it as a great opportunity to make services better, but I also fear that it could head in the wrong direction and become a situation where people with disabilities are controlled, instead of them being in control of their services and their lives. I understand we have to go in a different direction because it is not fiscally sustainable the way the system currently is, but as we do this, we must have individuals with developmental disabilities and their families present at the table. Who better to know what services we need than the people who use the services everyday? We must make sure this waiver is truly puts people first because I have lived in institutions and restrictive environments, and I will never go back.  As the care coordinators roll out, they need to get to know the individuals they serve on a personal basis so they understand the needs and wants of the people they are helping to navigate the service system. Individuals are individuals, and everyone’s needs and wants are unique and must be treated as such. Services should not be exactly the same because situations are different and people’s services should reflect their differences in needs and wants. Money shouldn’t be the driving force as the new waiver roles out. The happiness of the individuals receiving services should be the first and foremost goal of the new services system. I hope anyone reading this article will take my words to heart as the new waiver continues to develop.

Thank You for your Feedback

We would like to extend a big thank you to all of the providers who completed the survey and shared valuable input that will help us to shape the future of iCircle Services. The overall results will be shared in an issue of Provider Network News in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Provider Spotlight: Family Resource Network

Established: 1994

Mission: Individuals with special needs deserve EVERY opportunity to achieve their unique potential. The Family Resource Network was founded by parents to ENHANCE the lives of individuals with special needs and their families, EMPOWERING them to lead productive independent lives WITHIN the Community.

Executive Director/CEO: Meghann Andrews-Whitaker

Developmental Disability Services:

  • Family Support Services - OPWDD
  • Dragon Dates - Social Skills Program for children on the Autism Spectrum, run in conjunction with SUNY Oneonta Special Education Graduate Program
  • Support to Community - Education to the community in a number of settings from daycare to hospitals in regards to specific or general disability related topics
  • Enhanced Autism Training - Top notch national or well-known speakers are brought to our rural area at parent and caregiver request with the notion that education is key to understanding the complex spectrum of Autism
  • Information and Referral - Enables families to speak with peer advocates who can provide them with information and resources in their local community, regionally  and even at the State level
  • G &E Therapy Summer Camp and After School program for youth on the Autism Spectrum
  • Support Groups/ Workshops and Training for families who have a child living in the home with a developmental disability
  • Intensive Advocacy - Peer advocates assist families who have an OPWDD eligible child navigate the many systems, and challenges at play. Medical, educational, service access and future planning being our most utilized areas of need

Other Services:  

  • Southern Tier Special Education Parent Center - through the office of Special Education at the State Education Dept.; They provide a vast array of trainings for families involved with the Special Education process: Effective Communication, IEP Development, Understanding Evaluations (with licensed professionals), and Parent Member Trainings to name a few
  • Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (Systems of Care) - currently work through a peer model and use a wrap-around model in Otsego and Chenango Counties
  • Residential Family Advocate Program - this is a collaboration with Elmwood and Boys of Courage MH Community Residences and Stillwater RTF; The goal is to meet with families prior to admission into one of these programs to better prepare the families for the experience using a peer model; Helping families access local networks and supports through an empowerment and strength based model is key in this program; Parenting classes also offered to families through this program
  • Teen Scene - this group of teens (13-19)  meet once a month with a local Restorative Justice/ Mediator who works with these “cross-system” youth on various topics chosen by them; This is a youth driven model funded through Otsego County Community Services
  • Families Together Chapter and Support Group - This group meets once a month and is family driven and cross-systems as well; planned facilitation through our staff member with lived experience

Number of Employees: 10

Number of Individuals Served: 2000

Coverage Area: OPWDD coverage DDRO 2 Broome (six county catchment); Southern Tier Special Education Parent Center covers 4 BOCES districts (ONC, DCMO, BT, and GST); Residential Family Advocate cover the OMH “Central Region” of NYS

Ages Served: Birth-Adults who live with their families

Thank you for your Support!

iCircle Services

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Mission: iCircle Services is a service portal where individuals with developmental disabilities and their families can self-direct, advocate, and secure the supports and services that best fit their needs. We are guided by individual choice, inclusion, diversity, cultural competence, respect, community, learning and empowerment for those we serve.

Vision: iCircle Services will establish a comprehensive, sustainable, trusted, and compassionate system of supports and services that will help empower families and individuals with developmental disabilities to promote their happiness, independence and inclusion as productive members of our community.

Contact Us:
Phone: 1-855-775-3778
Email: info@icirclecny.org
Website: www.icirclecny.org

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