By Clarence Lewis, Central Region Manager
Central Region is fairly new as a whole operating entity and it is APD’s second largest region covering 12 counties, touching both the west coast and the east coast. It also has more intensive behavior customers than anywhere else in the state and it is also the only region with a comprehensive transitional education program (CTEP) provider in Carlton Palms, which requires a very strong working relationship. The region serves more than 6,000 customers who are on the Medicaid Waiver and another 4,500 customers on the waiting list, which keeps us very busy.
Staffing was our biggest challenge last year as we were down a third of our professional positions with 25 vacancies. The good news is the recent approval to fill many of these positions, which allows us to do more for our customers. In addition, Central Region is making the most of technology and we are at a point that it does not matter where a worker is because with technology we can serve folks in any of the other counties. As we move forward, our use of technology will continue to grow and I think we did an outstanding job ensuring folks remained safe and healthy.
I have an outstanding Central Region Team and everyone did what was needed to assist and provide services to our customers.
Supported Employment Initiative
Deputy Regional Operations Manager Reed Stephan and I continue meeting with providers to promote supported employment for our customers. One of the opportunities we had was to interact with a group from Japan who were very interested in learning how a state agency supports and promotes people with disabilities. We gathered at Quest Inc., one of our supported employment partners, to collaborate and share stories and examples of how everyone has abilities and how we daily support and advocate for people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities with our international partners.
Stephan pointed out that when we look at the agency as a population management agency we want to ensure health, safety and self-determination for all of our customers. We provide a robust system so that we can deliver services to as many folks as possible. If someone has an unmet goal or interest in working, there is an assessment to determine skill level and support needs. “We have developed a close relationship with our legacy adult day training (ADT) providers, and where appropriate, they have a plan to develop an up-to-date job goal. The trend is moving away from using ADT environments to a more supported competitive work model and to use supported employment in conjunction with other critical supports and services such as transportation services,” said Stephan.
We are also working with these same providers on how to assist customers though the Employment Enhancement Program (EEP). Many providers left their supported employment positions unfilled. We are looking at a new business model to pay for this expertise and working closely to create a plan that is a win, win for all. We had our EEP orientation meeting and we now provide individual technical assistance with the region’s EEP providers, starting with the Brevard Achievement Center (BAC). The BAC is a good partner and vocal advocate for expanding support and services for customers, so this is a great place to begin.
Stephan said, “We are anticipating that providers can begin to plan their staffing model to meet APD’s needs within three months as they build a caseload of both waiver and EEP customers.”
Provider Enrollment Initiative
We re-engineered certain provider enrollment processes to match current business methods. We streamlined the multiple processes that must occur simultaneously. This led to our ability to quantify the volume of work that must be addressed within strict timeframes. It resolves some of the customer service issues that frequently arise from the provider enrollment process.
Pricilla Weeks, provider enrollment, was instrumental in identifying a more efficient way to meet the needs of our new providers, as well as our legacy providers who have to go through renewal. For example, Central Region implemented exclusive use of the provider database developed in Tallahassee. This spreadsheet, while difficult to initially complete, allows us to monitor and quantify workload related to provider enrollment. This replaces multiple process tools that were being used separately in the area offices, which was an inefficient and ineffective process.
While I have the best team of people, there are a few I want to highlight for their outstanding work, finding solutions, and customer service.
Stacie Cleveland returned to APD two years ago. Cleveland is our community affairs / waitlist work stream lead. She has outstanding customer service, goes beyond to meet customers’ needs, and puts in countless hours to ensure the services are performed. She’s the epitome of a public servant. She can handle all situations, aggravated parents, lawyers, everyone in an even, supportive way.
Additional Central Region Heroes include the regional Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Work Stream Manager Jeannette Estes. She is basically always on-call whenever a critical incident occurs and carries the responsibility of ensuring all key staff are notified and Tallahassee is aware of what occurred. Jeanette is a solid advocate and is quick to intervene to ensure the health and safety of our customers.
Wayne Perry, regional Medicaid waiver work stream manager, also performs with great skill and compassion. His team is the critical link to the people we serve through the waiver support coordinators. Regional Medical Management and Forensics Work Stream Manager Merari Perez has also been significant to our success through professionalism and skill. This operational area has a very close interaction with the APD nurses in Tallahassee, the local behavioral support staff, as well as interaction with the state court system.
Cindy Drew, a supported employment specialist, was honored with the Making a Difference Award on May 7 at the Visions Conference in Orlando for her ongoing commitment to supporting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The award was presented by the Florida Division on Career Development and Transition.
The Family Care Councils (FCC) are an important partner with their advocacy and information sharing. We are fortunate to have good relationships with the FCCs across the region and we participate in the quarterly FCC meetings held in Orlando. This region has a slight advantage because we get to interact with other FCCs around the state allowing us to learn a lot.
Most of all, every member of our Central Region Team needs to be recognized for their exemplary job under difficult circumstance. Job Well Done!
For more information about APD’s Central Region, please visit http://apd.myflorida.com/region/central/ .