Final Blog Post is a Fare Thee Well

June 30, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

Margaret TheisenJuly 1, 2015 launches a new future for Full Access serving Lane County and Full Access High Desert, the 14th Support Service Brokerage, now serving people in Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Lake Counties.  This new future was directed to go forward by our Board of Directors in January 2015, with support from the Oregon Department of Human Services.  This is an exciting time for reinvention for both agencies, who have a rich common past of nearly 14 years.  We now have two new futures as separate agencies.  Heather Hopkins-Slechta is the Executive Director for Full Access High Desert and Todd Teixeira is the Executive Director for Full Access.  Both agencies still have the same highly skilled staff you have come to appreciate through the years!

As I am leaving, I have deep appreciation for the work we have accomplished together in the past, and I am confident the continued realization of the mission of both agencies will carry a new and more impactful future as each grows under new leadership.  In leaving I have heard many well wishes, encouragement and recognition.  One card I received I am particularly touched by and have reflected on these words for several weeks now.  The content is below word for word, and the lessons brought to me are significant.  This is written by an employee who captured much of the essence of our mission.

“The very last question you asked me before I was hired at Full Access back in 2005 was ‘Can you work for someone like me?’  I remember being taken aback and unsure how to answer.  You said ‘let me tell you what that means’ and went on to describe how you were often out of the office, in Salem or Bend, so you wouldn’t be available to provide direct supervision all the time. But over the last 10 years I’ve realized that you left out some things.

You failed to mention the high standards you would set, and the example by which you would lead.  You said nothing about the number of times you would ask me to step out of my comfort zone, or how much support and encouragement you would provide.  You forgot to say that I would never have to worry, because you would always have my back.  You didn’t tell me how much I would learn and grown under your skillful leadership.

Thank you for believing in me, challenging me, supporting me in my failures and acknowledging my successes.  I will miss your calm approach and reassuring presence.  You have been an amazing boss.

And yes, Margaret, I can work for someone like you.”

This person spoke of high standards, leading by example, getting out of our comfort zone, the importance of support and encouragement, having each other’s back, growth, being believed in and challenged, getting supported in failures and acknowledged for success, and being present with one another.  This too has been my experience.

+ Josh Rasmussen 1bGiven who the people we support are, we should have high standards and establish all the qualities noted by this employee.  When she wrote, she was writing to me and about me, but I also heard a deeper message:  This is who we all are!  From our clients, staff, board of directors, families, community partners, donors, volunteers, state and county staff, and the stellar group of support services brokerage directors, these qualities lead us from an era of institutionalizing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to a full on charge for community living and supports.  The work we do is privileged work.  That is not something I have ever taken for granted.

There are countless moments of conversations I have had with our clients about both our failures and successes in customer service. I have been reminded through the years, that our work has a center and the center is each person we support.  How we treat the one, is how we treat the many.  This value is particularly important to hold in front of our minds as we go through enormous changes, as we have in recent years.

As I leave, I am confident in the future of our communities because of the values deeply expressed in our hearts and actions these past years.  They are the best predictor that all will be well.

Fare thee well, my friends!

Margaret Theisen, CEO 

 

Purple heart-shaped flowers


Standing Together

June 5, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

On June 2nd, I experienced my last meeting with the Oregon Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coalition after more than 13 active years with the group and six years as the Chair.  This was a special meeting because it represented, to me, the best of the best in our efforts statewide to provide excellent support services!

Leslie Sutton, the policy analyst for the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities absolutely rocked the room!  She had a bouquet of flowers on the table that one by one, she placed in a vase while acknowledging the people in the room (and others not at the meeting) placing a flower in the vase for each.  When the bouquet was complete, Kathryn Weit and Katie Rose acknowledged me for my service to the Coalition and I was the happy recipient of the full bouquet!

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Here are some of the key advocacy points that were recognized:

Sharing that cutting the Fairview trust is the Senate not sticking to its promises to people with IDD about housing. People with disabilities can live and work in their communities just like everyone else – we just need different supports.

Emphasizing employment for people with IDD is possible and key to a real life.

Advocating for the “Face of the Direct Support Professionals wage movement” – made the point that DSPs are a critical link between supporting people to have a real life and then illustrated what a real life looks like.

A parent boldly stating “I am proud of my daughter!”

Brokerage customer “I am a winner, not a loser”.

To no longer be in a crisis system for kids is a life changer.

A parent wouldn’t have a vision and be helping her daughter have the future she wants to pursue – had it not been for the Family Networks.

A former resident of Fairview taught new legislators about Fairview and reminded them to never institutionalize people again. It was noteworthy what Rep. Carla Piluso said:  “I stand on the shoulders of women who came before me, you are one of those women. Thank you.”…

The Fairview trust was an effort to make good out of brutal public policy. I was there – these promises were real and must be kept.

“I used to live in a group home, but I have my own place now. I love that I can have friends and family over when I want. This is better for me.”

Behavior is communication and “that’s what training is for.”

Oregon is stronger when all members of its communities work, contribute to local economies and otherwise participate in the greater good.  People with IDD deserve that Oregon honor this right. 

People with IDD are at risk for abuse. We need all hands on deck to commit to reporting abuse when it happens.  I feel better knowing that people in my house are committed to reporting abuse when they see it.

A tax credit helps get you in the door as a job developer. This is about creating opportunity for people with IDD – but also for businesses.

Regarding the ABLE Act – The pain of writing your child out of your will…simply because they have a disability is terrible.

 And hundreds of people who attended a GO! Advocacy Days, supported others to meet with their legislators, contacted legislators this session about the IDD Coalition priorities, forwarded an advocacy email to get others interested and got involved.

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In summary, Leslie, who led so much of this effort, acknowledged the entire coalition for making a commitment at the beginning of the session to stay together as a coalition. We were all standing.  We stuck together as a coalition and that’s why we were successful. We cannot ever do this alone.

 

MT, CEO


Day of Advocacy

June 3, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

Tomorrow, June 4th,  is a special advocacy day regarding case management services for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities statewide.  For those of you who value the work of our Personal Agents as case managers, please take the time to contact your legislators and ask for support to our service system.  You can find your legislator at this site:  https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/FindYourLegislator/leg-districts.html

This is a message you could share in your own words, in your own way:

Personal Agents are the bridge to services and resources.  In addition to basic case management, they help people identify areas in which they need assistance, and help them connect with appropriate resources to meet those needs.  There isn’t a part of life that they don’t help people improve: activities of daily living, housing, employment, health, safety, and more.  Without a strong workforce of Personal Agents, all the resources and program funding fails to help people, because they don’t have help to get to what they need.  Brokerages provide an extra layer of support to individuals with IDD interacting with law enforcement, emergency services, hospitals, and other community resources.  Each agent helps make community life possible for dozens of adults with IDD.

Over the past two years, PA jobs have changed dramatically. Oregon adopted the Medicaid State Plan Community First Choice (K Plan), which has required massive changes to state policies and procedures, and increased services to clients.  You are probably seeing an increase in the overall IDD budget because of the K Plan.  What you do not see are the ways in which an increase in services impacts the case management workforce.  The average amount of Medicaid funds now managed by a Personal Agent has doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled over amounts two years ago.  PAs spend significant hours each month entering and managing information for customers and providers in the state eXPRS payment system.  They are still trying to catch up with what has been wave after crashing wave of policy changes, system changes, and service changes.  And they do all of this while continuing to try to remain focused on their main charge: to respond and support the adults with IDD on their caseload.  More and more, there is no time left over for this, the most important work.

Unfortunately, none of the budgetary increase that you see will fund any additional support for work as a Personal Agent.  They are a small part of the system, budget-wise, but are vitally important to the continued function of the IDD system.

The K Plan was chosen by lawmakers because it brings in a 6% increase in federal match dollars.  Personal Agent case managers are on the front lines of securing those dollars.  Over the past two years, they have worked tirelessly to keep on top of sometimes daily policy changes and increased requirements coming from the top down.  This work has brought millions of dollars to Oregon.  Please support the work that they do by funding the Workload Model for Brokerages at 95% parity.  Even small cuts to this percentage will mean a result in a cut to our funding biennium over biennium.  Coming at a time of heavily increased responsibility, a funding loss would be jeopardize the work brokerages do to bring federal match dollars to Oregon, and cut into the time we have to address the urgent needs of the people we serve in your district.

This special day of action is important so please consider contacting your legislators now!!

MT, CEO


Full Access announcements!

May 14, 2015

Greetings Friends of Full Access!

Full Access is undergoing big changes in the next month.  First of all, we are in the process of separating our agency from one to two!  This means that we will have Full Access serving Lane County.  And, we will have Full Access High Desert, a newly certified Support Services Brokerage, serving Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook and Lake Counties!  We are doing this to advance the best possible service to all our customers and their families.  Having smaller organizations made sense to us since we were as big as two brokerages compared to some other places in the state.

It will take a few months for all the internal details to work out about this change to two agencies, however, we officially separate our businesses July 1st.  Each will be separate operations with their own Board of Directors, staff, State contract and management.  We are so excited to share more news about this!  We are very fortunate to introduce you to the Executive Directors for both agencies.

Heather Hopkins-Slechta, Executive Director of Full Access High Desert

Heather Hopkins-Slechta, new Executive Director of Full Access High Desert

Heather Hopkins-Slechta, known to most of you, has been promoted to the Executive Director role for Full Access High Desert.  Heather is one of the original staff hired by Full Access in 2002.  After 13 great years with Full Access, she is looking forward to the opportunity for the growth of services focusing on the High Desert region.  Please add her to your contacts: 541-749-2158 and hhslechta@fullaccess.org

As a member if the ‘sandwich generation’ it is very important to Heather, both personally and professionally, that services are available to support individuals to stay in their own homes or their family homes. She is a strong proponent of self-directed services and advocates that these services continue to abide by the original philosophy that created the brokerage system.

Heather received her degree in psychology from the University of Oregon and has been working in social services since 1992. She has participated on several state and local advisory committees, as well as planning committees for state-wide conferences, related to services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After spending several years in the Willamette Valley, Heather moved her three generation household to Bend in 2013. She and her family very much enjoy the area and the outdoor recreation the Central Oregon and the High Desert has to offer.

Todd Teixeira, new Executive Director of Full Access

Todd Teixeira, new Executive Director of Full Access

We have also selected the Executive Director for Full Access, supporting our Lane County clients with Margaret Theisen leaving in June.  After interviewing with over 30 people representing Full Access, Todd Teixeira was hired as the Executive Director effective July 1.  Todd’s email address is tteixeira@fullaccess.org and he can be added to your email contacts at this time.

Born and raised in Northern California, Todd has life-long experience with disability. Visually impaired since birth, he understands having necessary services and supports are essential to an individual achieving their personal goals. Todd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from San Jose State, and a Certificate in Management from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. For the majority of his career, he has worked as a department and division director in the nonprofit social services industry for organizations serving the cross-disability community, including individuals who are blind or visually impaired, physically disabled, and persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Todd’s passion, leadership and management skills are well suited to direct Full Access into the next phase of success. Away from work, he enjoys spending time with his wife Louise, and their two daughters, Brandy and Jasmyn.

We hope you will join us at our Eugene office to celebrate my departure and to welcome Todd on Wednesday, June 17th, 3: 00 – 5:00 p.m.  Full Access High Desert will be announcing an open house as well, later this summer.  We are all very fortunate to be welcoming and congratulating Todd and Heather as Support Services Brokerages Executive Directors!

Best regards,

MT, CEO


Day Of Advocacy Friday, April 17, 2015

April 23, 2015

Guest post from Full Access client and staff member, Nick Kaasa:

Hello friends of Full Access,

UntitledSome of you may have received the letter from our CEO Margaret Theisen, Urging clients to ask legislators to fund The brokerage workload model at 95% .The Executive Director of the Oregon Support Services Association Katie Rose & myself met with representative Nancy Nathanson’s Aid Gillian Harger to discuss this matter. Both Katie and myself, were very excited when we were told that representative Nathanson’s office had been receiving many phone calls specifically from , Full Access clients regarding the letter they had received. Being both a client and employee I have seen the effects of this issue from both sides of the coin. Currently 45 clients to one personal agent leaves PAs finding it difficult to give that individualize support that  brokerages , were implemented to do and clients, are having frustrations directed towards their personal agents lack of availability . But I know if we keep working hard on these important advocacy issues we can make change to brokerage workload models for brokerages all across the state, for the client. and their PA’s
Sincerely
Nicholas Kaasa

Untitled


Generations of Strong Women

April 16, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

This past weekend an enormous family and community members gathered to say farewell to Eileen Aanrud, a person I had not met but have heard about for many years.  She was “Grandma” to Angela Farmen, a 12 year employee in our Eugene office.  Although I never met Grandma, I regularly heard brief stories about her from Ange.  Recently, as Grandma was in her last days and weeks, it was more apparent to me, who Eileen Aanrud was as a person to her family and community.  This was most obvious with the majority of pews being filled at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Cottage Grove, the place of her memorial service.

Though memorials are sad to me, I eagerly listened to passionate stories about not just Grandma, but her eight children and 34 additional grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.  I was so inspired seeing the generations celebrate Grandma’s life, and deeply grieve her death.  She was deeply loved.  I was struck with her life, lived for others, as a family member shared about her and read numerous letters acknowledging the family matriarch.  It painted a picture of Grandma’s strength, the strength she passed along to her children, and clearly for me, passed along to Angela.

Everyone knows Ange Farmen is tough as nails!  Through these years of working together I have seen her go through life changes, family changes and of course, unending changes at Full Access.  In the early years working together Ange processed time sheets and other paperwork for dozens of our clients’ employees.  Within two years we had 270 clients; by year five, 650;  by year ten, we exceeded what anyone had expected of brokerages with over 700 clients.  Now, nearly 900 clients receive support through our agency.  And of course, their employee numbers are nearly 1000.

For each and every one of our clients’ Personal Support Workers, Ange has dedicated herself to making things not just work well, but work perfectly!  There isn’t a payroll that goes by where she doesn’t have to solve a new type of problem.  With a team of Full Access staff in our two major offices, we now are processing paperwork for nearly $1,000,000 every month to ensure people are paid accurately and on time.  Are we perfect?  Some of you know we aren’t!  But can you find a more dedicated staff person working for you than Ange?  I say no.

Much like her Grandma, Ange doesn’t just have a job but children and grandchildren of her own.  She has worn down more car tires than anyone I know, driving to support family in their activities and to make sure everyone is okay.  She doesn’t know all the stories I have heard about her helping coworkers prepare for volunteer events, paint their houses, help with clean up, run to Costco and all types of things we have to do just to get through daily life.  With the onset of the state eXPRS payment system, anyone who knows about this must know it has been difficult (to be polite about it).  Laboring through this change required days to start at 6:00 a.m. and end at 10:00 p.m. at times, and hours and hours of overtime.  This truly has been a labor of love for Ange, who has to make things work as best they can for everyone!  Even people she will never know or meet, but are those who get paid for supporting our clients.

I thought it would be fitting to acknowledge the generations that came into this world from Eileen Aanrud, so a brief part of her obituary is below.  Mostly I think it is fitting to acknowledge her for the character she built throughout her family, and the gift she gave us in her granddaughter Angela.  She’s one of many extraordinary staff in our organization, and now I can see where her strength came from.

Godspeed, Eileen!

MT, CEO

 

GrandmaEileen Aanrud of Cottage Grove died on April 2 at the age of 89. She was born on October 30, 1925 in Conemaugh, PA to William and Marie (Burger) Diamond. She married Richard Aanrud on January 10, 1945 in New York, NY, and traveled all over the country, including to Cuba, as a Navy spouse. She was a wonderful mother and grandmother. She was also an accomplished seamstress. She worked as a seamstress and waitress. She was a member of the VFW, and of OLPH Catholic Church in Cottage Grove. Eileen is survived by daughter, Arleen Funai, Honolulu, HI; daughter, Sherry Farmen, Cottage Grove, OR; daughter, Rickie Jeramiah, Payette, ID; son, William Aanrud, Anchorage, AK; son, Owen Aanrud, Cottage Grove; son, Lewis Aanrud, Coquille, OR; sisters, Arlene Diamond and Helen McClemins, both of Pennsylvania; 13 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren.


The Plan for Full Access Becoming Two Brokerages

March 5, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

I have an update about future planning at our brokerage!   As I shared a few months ago, I am leaving Full Access in June this year.  A big part of the preparation for that is completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and strategic plan.  So far this has included work within our agency and outside of our agency, getting feedback from community partners, clients, family members and a broader group of constituents.   We are getting great input from dozens of people.  Any time you want to share your thoughts about Full Access, you can call or email me at 541-284-5070 or mtheisen@fullaccess.org

One of the things we have been discussing in this process is that our primary region of Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Lake Counties is quite different in some ways from our Lane County region.  As the largest brokerage in the state with 875 clients, we have been considering changing the agency into two separate brokerages.  We recently started to actively pursue this!  It’s exciting news for most of the people that I have spoken with or heard from in surveys.  Our board of directors has had very meaningful discussions about this and approved us going forward to create two agencies.  In late January, our Assistant Director, Heather Hopkins-Slechta, and I met with people in leadership at the state.  We have an agreement to go forward with this separation.

One of our surveyed community members shared this viewpoint:

“I can only see this as a plus. FA seems to really cover 2 distinct service areas. Customers truly value local access to their case management service and to have the ‘main’ office really be local will likely be significant to the community. I also think having a brokerage who speaks specifically for that area of the state could be valuable.”

I agree with this perspective.  After more than 13 years leading the 5 county area as one brokerage, I see this new future as holding the strongest vision for locally driven support services.  We will have initial work done for the separation by July, 2015.  We also will have a very close working relationship for as long as it takes afterwards to have a smooth transition.  It will take quite some time to complete the internal changes.  We do always intend to stay in a close working relationship, even though the governance of the agencies will be different.  Each will have their own board of directors and operate as a separate business.

This also changes how we are hiring for the new person that will fill my role.  It is now our plan to hire an Executive Director for Lane County and one for the four other counties (Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Lake).  We have a search committee involved in our hiring process.  Once we have those positions filled, we will make announcements through our Facebook page and other means.

As one more big change to work through, the change to two agencies will take focus and hard work.  We are very excited to be part of the creation of the 14th Support Services Brokerage.  If you would like to share your thoughts about any of this I would be very happy to hear from you!

MT, CEO

 


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