Israel Partners Continue Positive Change

April 16, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

Israel partners in Washington DC

Israel partners in Washington DC

Many of you may remember our partnership through MIUSA, involving an organization called Bizchut from Jerusalem, Israel and Ono Academic College.  Once our exchange was finished, one organization from our team was given the opportunity to receive a grant to fund a project that involved expanding advocacy work for people with disabilities.

Bizchut was chosen to receive this small grant, and has made strides in the goal of placing independent advocacy for persons with intellectual disabilities on the agenda in Israel.  In other words; having people with intellectual disabilities lead the way advocating for civil rights as well as the right to make the choices affecting their lives.  It is advocacy for the same rights of all people with disabilities in Israel.

A self advocate that was a part of our team, Shmulik, is heading up this project.  He has the support of someone that works at Bizchut, but he is blooming into a strong advocate and leader.  His primary goal is to create his own organization that supports social change for people with intellectual disabilities and is run by people with disabilities. With consistent support, Shmulik has gained understanding of what it will take to do this and continues to work toward this goal.



Shmulik and his support person participated in a conference that was organized by the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was attended by 700 people.  This conference supported the opportunity to network and learns more about the barriers faced by people advocating for disability rights.

Shmulik and his support person also gave a lecture at the conference for social workers who work with people with disabilities.  His lecture focused on what he learned from his trip to the United States and participating in the exchange with Full Access.  Specifically, how our brokerage system allows people receiving supports to choose what they would like to get for supports, but more importantly how they want to live their life.  Currently in Israel, individuals do not get any say in what supports they receive.  They are given a guardian who makes all the decisions for them, with the person needing support getting no say in the decisions that affect their life.  This is the exact thing that our partners are trying to change.

Shmulik is attempting to build relationships with other organizations in Israel.  Many of his outreach attempts have been successful.  A challenge in the future is getting a large parent organization to see the benefit of letting their “children” with intellectual disabilities make decision for themselves (good or bad).  A lot of fear is going to have to be addressed, and it will be a long, challenging journey.  However, if Shmulik and his team are successful, they will have an important ally in changing the entire system.

A lot of progress has been made, and there will be lots more to come.  Shmulik is building his core group of leaders, all of whom have a disability, to lead this movement of new activists.  He continues to teach advocacy and social justice at the teacher training college in Jerusalem.  He has developed a Facebook page to expand his group and communicate with individuals interested in his organizations work.  Over time his group will grow and blossom into an organization, and that organization will continue to make waves of changes for the benefit of people with disabilities in Israel.

I feel honored to have met these people and to have had a tiny part in such a hugely important movement for the rights of persons with disabilities.

-Stephanie Blum, Personal Agent at Full Access

Stephanie in Israel with Naama, Naama, and Shmulik

Stephanie in Israel with Naama, Naama, and Shmulik

These Times They Are STILL a-Changin’

April 10, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

At this very moment as I write, all but 4 of our Full Access staff are in a training about the next round of changes in our clients’ plans, service agreements, job descriptions and internal accounting documents.  We have had similar trainings over the past year with the implementation of the new K Plan service system we are navigating.  And, we will have more.  Navigating is a word I am using a lot lately.  As new parts of the change are shared or clarified, we need to navigate differently in the changing system, which means “find the way”.

As we have been “finding the way” the past year I feel mostly satisfied with how this has been felt by our clients and their families.  And I would very much like to hear from you if you feel otherwise!  That has been the most important part of our mission the past year: to ensure the changes in the system did not cause more problems for people, but actually may have enhanced their support.  I know of some cases where it did enhance services!  This is a great thing about the changes!

We actually still have a long way to go with the new future the K Plan brings.  Right now, five state staff have started conducting assessments for about 225 Full Access clients.  These assessments are on top of the typical work load for our Personal Agents, which is why the state is helping.  This is a great way for us to build relationships with state staff and for our clients to meet people from the state!  We appreciate the Department of Human Services reaching out in this way!

After those assessments are done, it is the responsibility of Full Access to complete a plan revision with all these clients within 60 days.  These revisions will have new language due to the K Plan, and when we have revisions this often means new service agreements, job descriptions and updates to other plan documents.  We also need to redesign how we account for our clients expenditures.  Just to give one example of the expenditure change, we used to have 15 codes to account for and now we have almost 60!  This causes us to have more complicated systems and a lot more work.  I really want to thank all Full Access staff for “finding the way” to keep our clients’ supports intact during this very difficult time.  I am also grateful we were able to hire 5 temporary staff to do these extra plan documents.  They all have excellent experience in our field and have been friends of ours for years.

This navigation is affecting all parts of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities services in our state.  Some parts are affected more than others.  This means some people are more affected than others.  The important thing is we all stay the course toward our mission.  Even at the national level we see changing times.  Tuesday this week, Sharon Lewis from the newly formed Administration for Community Living met with our state IDD coalition.

Sharon Lewis, on the left, explains federal issues to the Oregon IDD Coalition

Sharon Lewis, on the left, explains federal issues to the Oregon IDD Coalition

One of the most important things shared was regarding something she called “incredible and ground breaking”.   This is the clarification and change to our understanding of what it really means to support people in a Home and Community Based Setting.   Full Access, as well as all brokerages, was designed with funding from federal law regarding Home and Community Based Settings.  With this type of funding we are required to meet the law.  With new language about this, it means we are getting a more specific understanding of home and community regarding these funding streams.  What we all have ahead of us is determining what “settings” are in the community and what are not.  Any settings that isolate people like our clients, is not in the community.  I will have more to say in the future about what this means as I understand it better myself.  There is a website that has excellent information about this.

For now, I will leave you with a few words from Bob Dylan, who obviously knew 50 years ago, that even now we would be facing changing times!



Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.


The Judge was Love

March 28, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

I found myself sitting in a court room this week.  I think the only other times I have was during educational classes explaining our justice system.  I have wondered at times if courtrooms are designed to make people feel uncomfortable.  All the TV shows make them look a little scary.  This week, Courtroom #2 at the Lane County Serbu Center was anything but scary or uncomfortable.  It was an absolutely delightful experience in an inviting room, that felt warm and was filled with caring people.  How could this be?  Well the reason I was in the courtroom was that a Full Access long term employee and her husband adopted three wonderful children ages 5, 8 and 10!   During the court proceedings, Sandy and Cliff Leifeste became legal parents, creating a Forever Home for children who were previously in foster care.  They became a real family long before papers were signed.
Leifeste family

Forever Family!

Just sit for a minute and take that in.  To say that this is a rare experience is an understatement.  This sibling group of three finding a forever home beats all odds.  But to find a forever home with Sandy and Cliff; that is a miracle.  What was even more sweet about this was that the judge confirming this Forever Family is named Valeri Love.   Good things just have to happen when the Judge is Love!

I have known Sandy for over 20 years since we worked at Goodwill Industries together.  We were fortunate at Full Access to hire her 11 years ago.  Through her excellent work and commitment to our clients she has received two promotions during these years.  She is often referred to as our moral compass.  That seems like a tall order, but for her, not so much.  Her presence and positive attitude add unique gifts to our clients’ experiences, as well as our staff and other partners.  To watch her grow through many years of challenge, change and difficulty in the foster care and adoption process, has been a lesson in love for me.  She is driven by a deep devotion that I observe in very few people.  She has been and will continue to be, one of my teachers in regards to patience, kindness and compassion.

One other place I found myself sitting this week is at my desk!  It was a rare week where I didn’t travel out of town for work.  In my work area I have found little gifts left for me upon occasion.  I receive them as reminders that the Judge is Love outside courtroom as well!  Whole sand dollars, rocks and shiny stones have been left for me without notes or acknowledgments as to who left them.  All of the brokerage directors also received a gift recently – a handmade pottery bowl from one of the directors.  Now some of my little reminder gifts are in the bowl.


These moments of noticing a bigger picture, a simple gift or a miraculous family union become even more important as the sea change in Support Services Brokerages is occurring.  For a year now we have either been preparing for change, in the midst of change, changing the change or honestly, banging our heads against the wall about the change.  I keep wondering how our clients and families have been touched by these changes.  And I hope they have struggled very little.  I do know from them that many good things continue to happen in their support experiences.  These hopeful highlights are much like the rainbow in the lingering winter light.  Sometimes we need to look up for the hopeful highlights.


The good things happening with our clients and families are why we are here.  Our Mission is only fulfilled when we accomplish what it says;  Being on the lookout for the little gifts, the Forever Families and rainbows in cloudy skies will probably lead me to finding more of the good things.  I sure would love to hear anyone else’s stories about this too.  I especially want to hear people’s thoughts about whether or not we are accomplishing our mission.  Do you have stories to share?


Kathryn Weit hired as Oregon Support Services Association Executive Director

March 14, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

I am sharing news with you today that was just sent out from me as the President of the Oregon Support Services Association.  Many people in our community know Kathryn from her years in Eugene.  We are fortunate to get her help in our system at this time of great change!

The Oregon Support Services Association (OSSA) is pleased to announce the hiring of Kathryn Weit as our Executive Director.  Kathryn is well known as an advocate and leader for services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Her extensive history in our State includes participating in launching the Oregon Support Services Brokerage system, leading the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Coalition and serving as the Executive Director of the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Her primary roles are advisory to OSSA regarding advocacy needs on major policy, budget and customer issues for support services brokerages and the broader IDD system; representation of OSSA at key DHS, legislative and other organizational meetings; recommending advocacy actions to OSSA and to function as the key communicator for the association.  Additionally, she will be working in support of spotlighting client success stories with the advent of the K plan and addressing implementation concerns identified in our current Advocacy position, posted here for your information.  Kathryn will report to the OSSA Board of Directors, which consists of the 13 Executive Directors of the Oregon Support Services Brokerages.

Kathryn is reachable at and 541-520-7461.

Margaret Theisen, President
Oregon Support Services Association
(541) 284-5070 ext. 101


Board Officers: Board Members:
Margaret Theisen, President
Full Access
Dan Peccia, Vice President
Self-Determination Resources, Inc
Bill Uhlman, Secretary / Treasurer
Eastern Oregon Support Services
Jennifer Bickett
Community Pathways, Inc
Barbara Charette
Southern Oregon Regional Brokerage
Larry Deal
Independence Northwest
Jill Sorensen
Integrated Services Network
Barbara Hedrick
Creative Supports, Inc
Adam Ayers
Resource Connections of Oregon
Sarah Knight
UCP Connections
Ed Little, Jr.
Mentor Oregon Mid-Valley
Rachel Dayka
Inclusion, Inc
Katie Rose
Mentor Oregon  Metro

Employment First – Q&A with ODE Transition Liaison Heather Lindsey

March 7, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

This week we are hearing about Employment First again.  A very familiar friend of Full Access is featured!

Heather Lindsey worked with many of our clients and Personal Agents through the years.  We really respect her work and her dedication to employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Her new role will expand her influence in our efforts to provide meaningful, productive and competitive employment.  As we say here, she is a ROCKSTAR!  Congratulations, Heather!



To: Employment First stakeholders

From: Statewide Employment First Coordinator Mike Maley

Re: Employment First – Q&A with ODE Transition Liaison Heather Lindsey

(Please forward to your local partners & stakeholders)

In a past message, we discussed the critical role that school districts and educators have in helping to prepare students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) for integrated employment. The Governor’s Executive Order 13-04 includes specific expectations around a Memorandum of Understanding on Transition Students with Disabilities to the Workforce between the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Office of Developmental Disabilities Services (ODDS), and the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD). This MOU is at:

heather lindsey

Heather Lindsey (Lightflies Photography)

To assist with making connections between all those units and supporting the goals of the Executive Order and the Employment First initiative, ODE recently hired Heather Lindsey for the newly created position of Secondary Transition Liaison. Heather has a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from St. Louis-based Maryville University. She lives in Salem with her husband and two children. Heather graciously agreed to sit down for a Q&A on her new role and primary goals.


1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background.

Heather: I have worked in the field of transition services for over 10 years. Previous to this new position, I worked for Vocational Rehabilitation as a Counselor Specialist. During my tenure, I have had an opportunity to work with transition aged students in both urban and rural settings. I have a passion to ensure a seamless transition from school to employment.

2. What is your role as ODE’s Transition Liaison?

Heather: My position as a Secondary Transition Liaison is to provide statewide management in the area of special education transition services as directed by the Executive Order. I plan to provide technical assistance to transition network facilitators to assist school districts, parent organizations, and participating agencies to support a solid understanding of secondary special education and transition regulations, and implement evidence-based transition services.

3. What are your top goals in this new role?

Heather:  I’ve picked four, although there is of course a lot of work ahead of us.

1. Coordinate technical assistance for school districts with DHS, parents and related agencies regarding transition services for students with disabilities.

2. Work with ODDS, VR, and school districts to recognize and understand the expectations and requirements of the Executive Order.

3. Develop a Statewide Transition Technical Assistance Network. This network will work with local school districts and community partners in the provision of transition services throughout the state.

4. Help to create an overall culture change that employment should be a discussion in school at a younger age.

4. What are you focused on in the next three months?

Heather: We have started the process of recruiting and hiring eight part-time Transition Network Facilitators who will be placed throughout the entire state to work with specific regions. Together these positions will work as a larger network that will be a great resource in the community for educators, families and individuals. I am also working on gaining a better understanding of successful transition practices in communities throughout the state and in local employment first groups. I plan to share these successes with other transition programs, service agencies, and community support providers. Finally, we are developing regional training for transition teachers that will focus on transition-related curriculum, adult agency services and coordination, as well as community resources available to transition-age students.

5. Anything else you’d like to add?

Heather: I am excited about this partnership between education (ODE), VR, ODDS and the Council (OCDD) and getting out there to make those connections and being a resource for technical assistance. My career has been focused on trying to ensure a seamless successful transition for youth. I feel there is no more powerful question than, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” but that we have to appreciate that the answer to that question may change over time.

If you have questions or comments for Heather, she can be reached at

Message for Families and Self-Advocates: K Plan Update

February 27, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

This is important information for our clients and families so we are sharing it with you.  Please spread the word!



February 12, 2014

To:          Families and Self Advocates using Oregon Developmental Disability Services

From:    ODDS Interim Director and Chief Operating Officer Trisha Baxter

Re:         K Plan Implementation Update

Because it is important for you to have the best information for yourself and your families, I want you to know about the work that is happening in Oregon’s Developmental Disability Services (ODDS) program. Each month, I will be writing a new update for families and self-advocates so you’ll have the most current information. We will post the updates on the ODDS Facebook page and send them to your provider, CDDP or brokerage so they can get the update to you.

The new “K Plan” brings changes to some of our DD services, but leaves other services as they were and adds new services. To help you understand what the DD system now offers, ODDS created two new brochures, one for services to children and one for services for children and adults:

Services for Children:

Services for Children and Adults:

Brokerages and CDDPs will have these publications at their offices, but you can also print them from the links provided here.

I have heard many questions from families and self-advocates about the changes in ODDS services and one of the most common is about why we have to assess what you need before your Individual Support Plan (ISP) and what you can expect at your next assessment.  I will address that in today’s message.

Why you have to have an assessment:

• In order to understand your goals, strengths, choices and needs as they relate to your disability, the K Plan requires Oregon to do a face-to-face assessment.

• The assessment helps ODDS and those who help you develop your ISP understand which services you need to help you meet your goals.

• You will have the assessment once a year, but you can ask for a new assessment before a year has passed if you want a new assessment.

What to expect at your assessment meeting:

• You will be treated with respect.

• The person asking the questions will listen to you.

• ODDS needs to know about your goals and strengths, but also needs to know when you need help and what kind of help you need.

• During the assessment, you will be asked questions that will help ODDS understand what kind of supports will help you meet your goals.

• Before the assessment, you should think of all the different kinds of support you use. Think of the supports you use in the community, at work and at home.

• Remember: the assessment helps ODDS understand what you need to be successful, so stay positive and think about all the supports you need to meet your goals.

I encourage you to send your questions to me and I will answer them. You can also find a lot of current information on our Facebook page at:

Trisha Baxter

ODDS Interim Director and Chief Operating Officer


Taking the Plunge

February 21, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access,

Plunge 1Just last weekend I grumbled to myself “What in the world was I thinking???!!!” as I walked passed a sign stating that the water was 37 degrees. At least it wasn’t raining as was forecasted, but that also equaled clearer skies and colder temps. My phone said it was 34 degrees at 10:30 in the morning. So the water was at least warmer than the air… I’m not sure that made me feel any better. I HATE cold water. The river was still lined with snow in many spots. And it was Saturday- I could have been at home drinking coffee and relaxing. But no, I committed to take the Plunge. The Polar Plunge benefitting Special Olympics.

These thoughts of apprehension and dread really only lasted a few minutes. After all, I wanted to do this. Our team wanted to do this. Even our families wanted to do this! We believe in the cause as Special Olympics are important to so many people we work with. And we wanted to make a splash.

Plunge 2If you’ve never participated or been to this event, you may not know that simple swim or water attire is not enough. Costumes are important; there is even a costume contest. Also, a creative team name is necessary. For a couple of years now, our Central Oregon office team has been the “Plungers”. Trust me- it’s more creative than it sounds. We had our own logo on t-shirts, donned green tutu’s (guys included!), and carried beautiful glitter covered toilet plungers.

As we were towards the back of the 20+ plunging groups, we got to see a lot of great costumes as well as hear the cheers and shrieks of the groups plunging before us. But what I noticed the most was the excitement and the connection of the participants. It’s almost as if we belonged to a special club because we were all crazy enough to actually jump in really cold water.

Plunge 3Finally, it was the Full Access Plungers’ turn. We ran towards the water, tutus flowing, some with sparkling plungers in hand, and took the plunge. I was expecting more of a shock from the cold, but it was barely noticeable. A few dove or cannon-balled their way into Polar Plunge history. Before we knew it, it was over. Our consensus: we will do it again next year.

According to the Bend Polar Plunge site, this event raised nearly $60,000. There are Polar Plunges all over the state so you can imagine the success of this event for Special Olympics. Even if you don’t know someone who participates in Special Olympics, the Polar Plunge itself is worth being a part of just to say you did it.

Plunge 4Here is my challenge to all of you: join us next year! We would love to have a huge team of supporters join us for a morning of fun for a good cause. Maybe we can even have a little friendly competition between the Eugene office and the Bend office for Polar Plunge 2015? Stay tuned for the possibilities and we’ll keep you posted.


Heather Hopkins-Slechta

Assistant Director


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers