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Testing Waters for “Transition Plan,” OPWDD to Assess Community-based Residences

Testing Waters for “Transition Plan,” OPWDD to Assess Community-based Residences

Five-year Plan Reflects Across-the-board Seismic Shift to “Person-centered” Supports

Nov. 7, '14
By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

By March 2019, if all goes according to plan, New York State’s services and supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities will look vastly different than they do today.

A 13-page memo released in late October by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the state agency with which Hamaspik partners to serve the disability community, outlines and specifies the changes partner non-profits will be expected to gradually implement as the OPWDD rolls out its Transition Plan.

The Transition Plan, in turn, is the OPWDD’s long-term adoption of new federal guidelines, plus several of its own, that will reshape the agency—and its non-profit partners—into not only providing services and supports differently, but approaching the very field of disability services differently.

This collective change of regulations, and the change of philosophy behind it, is centered on the “person-centered” approach being espoused by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS has been working with the OPWDD in recent months and years to streamline the state agency’s internal overhaul, with several OPWDD changes—including the gradual adoption of the person-centered approach—part of the state-federal partnership.

Under the person-centered philosophy driving these changes, residences for individuals with disabilities under the OPWDD—including the Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA) group homes providing private residences that are the backbone of Hamaspik’s disability residential services—will see such diverse innovation as allowing full access to kitchens and food storage at any time, residents hosting visitors as they please, and individuals with disabilities having a say on where they live, and with whom.

Person-centered changes outside residences will include allowing individuals on group outings to participate in concerts or other public events in a less-grouped, more free-roaming manner so as to not create the appearance of segregation.

As of November 1, the OPWDD began collecting information on current disability residential operations across the state to create a “baseline” on which to base all said future changes.

At the same time, according to the memo, OPWDD provider agencies are to begin planning to implement person-centered changes in a number of areas, including informed individual choice, personal decision-making and the “dignity of risk,” or taking actions that may lead to undesirable yet harmless outcomes.

Full compliance with the new person-centered regulation is expected to be in place by March 2019 across the entire OPWDD.