A Diversity of Services Requires A Diversity of Providers

Community-based services are different.  In 2001, Oregon made a deep investment in community supports when it began to develop Support Services Brokerages.  This style of service, which seeks to serve people where and how they wish to live, is very support servicesdifferent from the institutional settings of the past.  People make different choices when you let them, they express different needs than you might have anticipated–they surprise you.  Oregon found that community-based services demanded a wider diversity of providers.  People inviting workers into their homes expected different things from those providers: willingness to take direction directly from the individual as to how to do the job, and an understanding and respect for self-determination.  Brokerage customers made use of established provider agencies for some tasks, direct employees for others; and over the years, Independent Contractors, or professionals in the field who go into business for themselves, have also sprung up around in-home services and customer needs.

Independent Contractors often offer a professional level of skills and experience, as well as ancillary expertise such as sign language, to provide the targeted training needed to build a more independent life.  For many people, an experienced, capable, autonomous, self-employed trainer has meant the difference between continuing to rely on others and acquiring the skills to live more independently.  Over the years, Independent Contractors have been essential to providing this kind of high-level skills training to Brokerage customers.

In 2014, the Independent Contractor stakeholder work-group mandated by the SEIU/DHS collective bargaining agreement issued a report concluding that changes to the system had likely made legitimate classification of independent contractors next to impossible.  The group’s work included consultations with The Oregon Employment Department.  Systemic changes due to the K state plan, overlay of union representation, implementation of the eXPRS payment system, and new rate structures have all resulted in incremental shifts, accumulating to a significant transformation of the business of Independent Contractors within the field.  This shift has jeopardized their correct classification as Independent Contractors by moving them closer and closer to the appearance of employees.rob_olga2

Brokerages believe and have always believed that Independent Contractors fill a particular need among brokerage customers.  Diversity of providers has been a hallmark of the brokerage system since its inception.  The elimination of Independent Contractors as a distinct class of providers with a distinct set of skills to offer people with IDD will be a significant loss to the people being served by Oregon.  When high-caliber skills training and the people who provide it are no longer supported by appropriate compensation, it starts to disappear as an option for the people who need it.  Community-based IDD services require people who can offer strength-based supports–people who can work with a person to understand a goal, create achievable steps, and get there.  OSSA supports a true diversity of provider options to meet the diversity of individual needs.

PSW-ICs deserve our support.  This group of people who have established businesses around the unique needs of Oregon’s IDD community, people who have built these skills and relationships, deserve a solution that allows them to continue to flourish and contribute their professional talents to serve the unique needs of Oregonians.

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OSSA’s Vision for the Future of Disability Services in Oregon

Sometimes, in the midst of change, it is hard to see the way forward.  Oregon’s system of services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities once felt like it had a clear identity as a national leader for progressive, community-based service.  We closed down institutions.  We gave control to the people using the services.  We showed that giving people self-determination can not only be right, it can also be cost-effective, good business.  Somewhere, in the crush of change and hurtling, forward momentum, we have lost the clarity of that identity.

Oregon the beautiful, through and through.

Oregon the beautiful, through and through.

Now is the time to work to reclaim that pioneering spirit at the heart of our state.  Make no mistake, it will take work–no one else in the nation is using the K Plan in the same way that Oregon has.  We’re out on the grand stage, we’re under the watchful eye of the national Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and we need to make this work.

It is in the spirit of collaboration, excellence, and service that we offer our Vision for the Future.  As is stated in our Opening Thoughts on page 2, this is “intended to be a starting point for discussion,” not a perfect, finished product.  We start with the vision and we fill in the rest, together.ossacoverforfacebook

Take a look, let your gears turn, and share your thoughts with us.

Thank you!

Brokerage Association Announces Leadership Changes in 2015

In the spirit of the new year, the Oregon Support Services Association announces two changes in leadership. 

Larry Deal, Executive Director of Independence Northwest brokerage, has assumed the role of OSSA President. He follows in the footsteps of Margaret Theisen, whose tenure spanned the birth of the brokerage association and four incredible years of unprecedented growth and change.   We are deeply indebted and grateful to Margaret for her influential and principled leadership. Margaret passed the torch to Larry after the association’s Board of Directors meeting in December.  Larry brings with him 13 years experience in Oregon’s Support Services system, and a deep talent for innovation, communication, and partnership. Dan Peccia of Self Determination Resources Inc. and Bill Uhlman of Eastern Oregon Support Services Brokerage will continue in their roles as Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer respectively.

Additionally, the association will begin a transition from its first Executive Director. For the past year, OSSA has been led by the incomparable Kathryn Weit. Her advocacy, passion, and leadership has greatly furthered the mission of OSSA by promoting, assuring, and protecting the integrity of Support Services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities statewide. We’re excited to announce that beginning in February 2015, Katie Rose will assume the Executive Director role full-time. Katie will be leaving her position of six years as the Director for the Mentor Oregon Brokerage presently serving individuals in the greater Portland area. As OSSA Executive Director, she will report to the OSSA Board of Directors, which consists of the 13 directors of the Oregon Support Services Brokerages.

Katie can be reached at katierose@oregonsupportservices.org beginning February 1, 2015. Stay tuned for additional contact details.

If you’d like to learn more about the association, please visit us at www.oregonsupportservices.org.