By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Residents of the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility celebrated Disability Awareness Month by hearing about the Development Services of Northwest Kansas of Hays recently.
Steve Keil explained many of the services provided by DSNWK as a Community Service Provider. He said LCMHF residents can benefit from services once they return to their communities.
“We had parents who wanted specialized services for their children and it’s developed into a variety of programs,” Keil said.
Services are targeted for more than 500 people with mild to severe disabilities. Services are available through community-based and outreach programs and interagency agreements with other service providers in the 18 northwestern most counties of Kansas.
DSNWK offers services for 18 counties through grants, donations and state, federal and local funding. Sunflower Diversified of Great Bend offers similar services for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Barton and Pawnee counties. Sunflower started an adult program for persons with disabilities in 1969.
Life plans are developed for each adult client involving a core team composed of parents, friends, pastors and employers. The goals vary depending on their disability.
“It’s set up for everyone to develop goals for their lives,” Keil said. “You want everyone to become more independent, which could mean simply learning how to drive a car or living independently.”
Creative Living is a residential service model where the needs are matched with the most appropriate and independent living environment possible with 24-hour supervision provided in some cases. Keil said DSNWK believes in providing a home environment that is comfortable, safe and promotes the value of living independently. DSNWK operates Supported Living, Supported Home Care, Supervised Living and ICF/MR Group Homes in Norton and Russell.
Apartment Living arrangements offer clients an opportunity to live independently, sometimes with a roommate. Sometimes, clients can become first-time home buyers.
The College for Living program is a day service program for adults with disabilities operated in Atwood, Hays, Hill City, Hoxie, Norton, Oakley and Russell.
Keil said College for Living promotes choice, independence and further learning by offering the opportunity to participate in structured classes in an adult setting. These classes are held both in-house and in the community. Community classes are taught by community members, which helps develop personal relationships.
Keil said classes in subjects such as self-advocacy, hygiene and computer technology are tailored to serve each individual.
“The goal is to provide individuals with the opportunities to enhance their current skills, as well as learn new skills, which will allow them to live as independently,” Keil said.
Keil said businesses are always looking for workers who are dependable in lower-skilled jobs, which match quite well with persons with various disabilities. Clients achieve their independence through employment, which includes janitorial work, dish washers and store greeters. DSNWK helps employ more than 80 people.
“A lot of businesses have a hard time keeping employees in certain jobs,” Keil said. “The people we work with are proud and loyal employees. We take phone calls all the time about possible employment.”
DSNWK created the “Business of My Own” option for those individuals who have a strong desire to develop their own business and are willing to take on the responsibility that comes with being a business owner. The program assists individuals once an individual expresses an interest in starting a business or marketing a personal product.
The program supports may include marketing strategies, financial, and/or technical assistance. Businesses can range from a one person owned business to a business owned by multiple partners.
The Kid-Link program provides early intervention services to children ages birth through two years in their natural environments. These services are provided at no cost to the families, and are for those who have a diagnosed disability, are delayed in one or more developmental areas, or are at risk of developmental delay.
Staff meet the professional qualifications to provide Infant Toddler early intervention services in Kansas. Services are offered in Norton, Osborne, Phillips, Rooks, Russell and Smith counties.
By Jim Misunas