In Community : The Untold Story: Choice is Essential

The Untold Story: Choice is Essential

We leave so much of every story on the editing room floor. Our attention spans dictate that we reduce stories to soundbites. I’m guilty of reading a headline and the lead paragraph, and then skimming the rest of the story. I miss important details every time.

In their book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Personal and Professional Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander address our innate tendencies to frame what we hear and see through the eyes of the maps we have already drawn in our minds. Because of this, we regularly miss observations from corners that are not part of those mental maps.

The Star Tribune recently profiled developmental disability services in a five-part series. Some of the information is damning to the state, some of providers. As a provider, it’s difficult to not respond defensively.

How we got here

Much of the group homes article speaks the truth – or at least part of it. And it does provide some balance in perspective – there’s a range of need and a need for a range of services. It’s the headline – the attention grabber – that gives pause. Since we are a provider, it’s this piece that most stirred in me a desire to respond.

The group homes article asserts that many group homes were designed for people who need 24-hour support. And that people living in group homes don’t always need 24-hour support. I agree with these statements. The truth is, there aren’t great options for those folks who require less support: housing is too expensive – and doesn’t always provide a supportive community – and transportation isn’t easily accessible. As a result, resources meant for those with the highest needs are being used for people who don’t need that level of support. In turn, those people who are  being over-served aren’t being given the freedom to make choices that they should be able to make.

Where we go next

We must guard against painting all people with disabilities with the same brush. Providers need to be willing to support people the system is designed to support or get out of the support game. That’s why Laura Baker Services Association is working with others to develop affordable housing, right here in Northfield.

Is there waste in the system? Having read the Star Tribune series, I have to say that it sounds like there is. It’s not across the board. We need to be careful that we understand the entire mental map before we make decisions to shrink resources in the system. Misdirected funding needs to be recaptured for people with significant needs, and we need to make changes in how we support those with lesser needs.

We need to craft person-centered solutions, based on an individual’s choices. And we need to ensure that caregivers remain interested and engaged with this field by paying them adequate wages. We all have a part to play in supporting people with disabilities to live successfully in their communities.

Listen to the whole story. Be a friend. Be a neighbor. Advocate for choice. Support affordable housing, as well as fair wages for caregivers.

Advocate for choice in housing

About the Author

Sandi Gerdes

Sandi Gerdes, executive director of Laura Baker Services Association, has a 30-year history of leadership in the disabilities community. A longtime advocate for choice, Sandi has developed numerous innovative service programs tailored to the unique needs of the individuals the organization serves.

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