Building Fuller Lives
Pilot program helps people with disabilities fulfill their dreams
BY ASHLEY MATHEY
Special to the Star Journal
There is a popular phrase seen on posters, T-shirts and decorative signs; it includes the suggestion to “live life to the fullest.” That sure sounds like a good idea, and easy enough to do. However, for people with developmental disabilities, living a ‘full life’ can be a difficult goal to attain. A local agency is working to change that.
Headwaters, Inc., based in Rhinelander, is one of only four agencies that received a grant from the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD). Called ‘Building Fuller Lives,’ the grant allows Headwaters’ staff to design improved services and supports that are more tailored to an individual’s dreams and aspirations.
“The Board’s ‘Full Lives’ effort shows that people with disabilities are like anyone else,” said, Beth Swedeen, BPDD executive director. “Their jobs are important to them, but so is being a part of the their community through volunteer work, recreational activities, getting together with friends and other activities. These grants equip agencies to provide supports across community settings so that people can work, live, and participate fully in their communities.”
The BPDD is charged under the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act with advocacy, capacity building, and systems change to improve self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration through inclusion to include all facets of community life for people with disabilities.
Building Fuller Lives is a wraparound program that helps people become fully involved in their community. It enables people with disabilities to control and manage their own lives. People in this new program do volunteer work, build their resumes and attend community events.
“We were honored to be chosen in the first round of grant recipients and to bring this new service model to the Northwoods,” said Katherine Garrison, community and workforce development manager at Headwaters, Inc. “We are committed to helping individuals have the fullest life possible which includes all of the components of community life.”
This pilot program, which began in July, 2016, “braids” community-based services, which Garrison said is a real benefit.
“We now have the skills to individualize and tailor support,” Garrison explained. “This is accomplished by augmenting work and keeping people connected to community and friends. This pilot improved our person-centered planning and discovery program. We now help foster independence, maximize limited resources, build meaningful community inclusion, and teach transferable skills.”
Through the grant, Headwaters learned that natural supports—people that individuals meet and form relationships with—are necessary for all people, including those with disabilities, to develop their identities within the community. Garrison said Building Fuller Lives also helped the Headwaters team to understand the importance of community engagement and employment in a meaningful life.
“We will continue to develop and enhance our services to support people with the newest and most advanced concepts available,” said Garrison. “In any community in order to be successful, all pieces must be in place. Moving forward, we are excited to embrace the challenges of encompassing all pieces of a full life. This work will make a huge impact; and our renewed focus on inclusion, employment, and independence will help people grow and develop to their fullest potential.”
For more information on Building Fuller Lives, call Headwaters, Inc., at 715-369-1337.