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

 


A Lifetime of Achievement

February 13, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access,

Margaret with her award and a few of her fans

Margaret with her award and a few of her fans

Last night, our CEO, Margaret Theisen, was awarded the 2014 Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award from The Arc Lane County.   This award honors a volunteer or professional who has devoted themselves to making life better for individuals with disabilities. Nominating Margaret for this award was an obvious choice for those of us who know her.  What follows is our nomination letter outlining Margaret’s dedication to the people we serve.

Congratulations, Margaret!

-The Full Access Team


 

To Whom it May Concern,

We are writing this letter on behalf of the staff at Full Access.  We would like to nominate Margaret Theisen for the Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award.  Margaret has worked in this field for more than 25 years.

During her tenure, she has been a fierce advocate for the people we serve!  Over the years, she has worked tirelessly with the State to ensure the quality of life for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  She’s been proactive in making sure services maintain the focus of self    directed supports and that the supports we offer make a difference in people’s lives.  Margaret has advocated for client choice.

Margaret has incorporated self-determination as a guiding principle at Full Access.  This has been done by ensuring that all aspects of our operations are referenced to a single question: “Will this    decision/action, within a framework of health and safety concerns, be consistent with the                commitment to support the principle of self-determination in the lives of people with intellectual    disabilities?” This is seen through Full Access’ organizational structure, budgeting, job descriptions, hiring practices, staff training and support, support delivered on behalf of people, relationships with service providers, and quality assurance practices.

Margaret has been a champion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  She has accomplished a great deal of work in the nearly 13 years of Full Access’ history.  Some of these       accomplishments have been in our local area and some have reached to other parts of the world.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Over the course of the last 13 years, Full Access has helped 1,360 different individuals pursue a quality of life that is consistent with their preferences and choices.  Margaret was the first employee hired by Full Access and when the doors opened March 1, 2002 there were 79 clients enrolled and 6 full time staff members hired.  Since then, Margaret has helped grow our agency.  Today, we serve 866 clients with an equivalent of 39 full time staff members.  Margaret understands that to best serve our clients we need to hire, and retain, qualified staff members.  In order to accomplish this, she has created a work atmosphere that is beyond compare! Full Access has been recognized in several ways and received various awards, greatly in part to Margaret’s leadership and her commitment to our mission:
    • The Sloan Award, a national recognition for a family-friendly and flexible workplace. Full Access ranked in the top 20% nationwide.
    • The Family Forward Leadership Award. This means that Full Access was ranked in the top four businesses in the state that received the Sloan Award nationally.
    • Recipient of Oregon Business Magazine’s #1 Medium-Sized Non-Profit to Work For three years in a row!
  • Margaret has a wealth of knowledge about the people we serve and she is often invited to share that knowledge with others:
    • She presented information on the legal approach to systems reform, the Staley Agreement, and ADA to a group of people with disabilities and attorneys from Japan.
    • She has spoke at a House Human Services Committee on behalf of the brokerage system for people with developmental disabilities.
    • Through MIUSA (Mobility International USA), she traveled to Bahrain, in the Middle East, and provided consultation on disability issues to a group of professionals also traveling to Bahrain. MIUSA is an agency whose mission is in “advancing disability rights and leadership globally”.  The host in Bahrain, Essam Kamal from Bahrain Disabled Sports Federation said this about Margaret and MIUSA, “The awesome success of the recently concluded U.S./Bahrain Professional Exchange Program held in the Kingdom Bahrain makes us more enlightened and focused.” and “Let us appreciate your elite delegation’s insight and expertise that guided us to better concepts and projects to support the disabled in a fruitful manner.”
    • She supervised an intern who was one of the trainers on the trip to Bahrain. The intern was developing a non-profit agency to do international work with youth.  The focus was on teaching young people how to advocate.  Their goal is to make sure that young people with disabilities learned to set and reach their own goals.
    • She was selected for two presentations on the National Council on Disabilities invitation-only Forum in Portland.  She represented not only Full Access, but our IDD services system at this important event.
    • She served as the brokerage representative for the management team for collective bargaining advocating on behalf of clients throughout the state.
    • She was invited to be part of a lecture series at The Boggs Center in New Jersey on support services.  The Boggs Center lecture series is a prestigious opportunity.  Through this opportunity, Margaret was able to represent Full Access and our work in Oregon.  She was invited at the suggestion of a former Oregon State DD Director.
  • Margaret is committed to broadening public awareness of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and breaking down barriers between all people, particularly those who are marginalized or ignored.
    • 2015 will be the 9th year that Full Access will host The Sprout Film Festival.  For a film to be a part of Sprout it must: show a realistic portrayal of somebody with an     intellectual or developmental disability and if there is acting in the film, the person or people in the film with a disability must actually have that disability.  Over the last 9 years Margaret has been instrumental in growing this event to include a free matinee performance for clients and their support staff, shows for students at elementary, middle and high schools as well as community showings in Bend, Cottage Grove, Eugene and Springfield.
    • She was instrumental in the development of the film, “Against the Fence: The Riley Campbell Story.” This is a story about a young man’s recovery from a brutal beating and his own participation in bringing justice to his life.  With Margaret as the producer, this impactful film has been accepted into local, national and even international film festivals.
    • She is the co-chair of the Look Me in the Eye campaign. This campaign was created by Two Agencies: One Vision, a cooperative effort of Full Access and Oregon Supported Living Program.  The goal of the Look Me in the Eye Campaign is to develop relationships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their communities.  The Look Me in the Eye campaign has reached a wide audience ranging from students through our multiple school presentations, local, county and state legislators through annual proclamations of Look Me in the Eye month, community members through our participation in the Eugene Celebration Parade and the hosting of our Evening of Elegance event.
    • Through a grant from the Federal Centers for Disease Control, she began the Preparedness Mentoring Project.  This year long project helped develop plans for our clients in case of disasters.  She also wrote two grants to our State DD Coalition for community trainings.  One of the trainings was in Eugene as a Transition Forum; the other, included several trainings in Central Oregon on the Abuse Reporting requirements.
  • Margaret thinks outside of the box! She is often working on new, innovative ways that will help reduce the operational costs of Full Access so that we can redirect those funds in a way that will help us be in a better position to support our clients.
    • She led the way for Full Access to partner with Oregon Supported Living Program to purchase the building that our Eugene office resides in. The purchase of the building will assure that Full Access won’t see increases in lease payments and needing to spend additional operational funds.  It will also allow for us, once the building is paid off, to redirect all of the funds needed for lease payments into other areas of the organization.  She also coordinated grants that helped with the installation of solar  panels which will be an additional savings for our building.
    • A few years after the building purchase in Eugene, through Margaret’s leadership, Full Access purchased the building that our Bend office currently resides in.  This building has been named the Beth Rixe Service Center after a client of Full Access.  Her parents, Katie and Dave Rixe, had this to say, “There are no words for what Full  Access did for us.  They stayed the course and kept us moving forward.  Beth’s 7 years of independent living is largely due to the support and guidance of Full Access.” 

Oregon Support Services Association recently said, “We are deeply indebted and grateful to Margaret for her influential and principled leadership.”  We couldn’t have said it better!  To sum it up, we think that “Margaret ROCKS!”  She has been an employer, a teacher, an advocate and a      visionary, all the while keeping the focus on our mission of assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to pursue a quality of life that is consistent with their preferences and choices! 

For all of these reasons, we believe Margaret would be an excellent candidate for the Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sincerely,

The Full Access Team


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