Posted on August 18, 2022
By Michael F. Shriver, Director of Consulting, and Kevin Walker, Director of Business Development
Since launching Penn-Mar Human Services Consulting in 2019, we have had the opportunity to work with over 30 organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All of them have been looking for innovative approaches and best practices to help provide a life well lived for all the people they support.
In those early days, we encountered many organizations that were interested in transforming to a business model that focused more on person-centered supports that could occur within the community, providing meaningful activities or community based employment.
And then came the pandemic.
Leaders were suddenly reduced to wondering if they would ever be able to open their doors again because of the financial impact of COVID. In order to survive, they were forced to pivot in ways that we have never seen before in our industry.
In hindsight, it is safe to say that this catastrophic worldwide event has forever changed the way all of us — human services organizations and the families and people we support — now view resources for people with disabilities and the expectations we have for them.
Before the pandemic, many people and their families were reticent about how to go about community supports focused on career and employment. It seemed like a giant leap and many had not yet warmed to the idea of their loved ones moving from a safe and healthy environment at Penn-Mar out into the community. They were concerned that some of those assurances would be removed.
The pandemic helped to accelerate the understanding that human services organizations had to rethink their services entirely and deliver them differently.
But first, we as providers had to figure out what supports could be delivered to people’s homes during the lockdown. What would they would actually look like? How could we maximize the fiscal aspect of doing that in the most cost-effective manner? We learned a lot throughout this crisis.
For example, in order to be compensated for services during the pandemic, you needed to provide supports in a virtual environment and make considerable and unexpected investments in technology.
We were able to support many organizations by helping them access State resources. We introduced them to State administrations and philanthropic sources that were providing innovation funds and grants to organizations wanting to know how to transform their traditional non-profit businesses with cost-effective supports that were important to their individuals.
We brought this learning to leadership at other organizations and helped them make courageous, bold moves to ensure their survival as they began to understand the opportunities that this crisis now provided them.
We offered self-assessments, looking at each organizations unique environment, culture, resources, staff, and families in order to help them create a transformative business model. This highlighted a peer-to-peer coaching approach that helped them successfully identify and implement whatever change was needed.
Our Consulting Group also built a very successful training component that organizations could use to ensure that their teams had the abilities and skill sets to implement person-centered programming.
Working side-by-side with peer leadership, we helped them take advantage of the opportunities created by the pandemic. This could involve seeking out funding resources; investing in staff with the ability to provide supports in different ways; actively listening and creating relationships with families to identify concerns; and demonstrating innovative approaches to priority issues we helped them identify.
We never suggest that our way is THE way. Rather, we demonstrate business success by sharing innovative approaches that can be aligned strategically with an organization’s particular culture and vision.