BATAVIA — Most people still don’t know where or what Independent Living of the Genesee Region is, Director Rae Frank says.
That may not be so atypical of service providers. It seems as though people only learn about such services when the need arises, she said.
Independent Living wants to make sure that it is serving those needs adequately. The agency is in progress with forming a Genesee Region Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities and will be having focus groups to ensure that youngsters aren’t kept out of the loop.
Two completely different initiatives, both are to ensure there aren’t any gaps or issues being ignored in the area.
“Since Western New York Independent Living took over we have wanted to make sure there’s a voice going back to the (Genesee County) legislative body,” she said of the newly formed advisory committee. “We want it to have a broad representation of people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, government representatives and service providers.”
She hopes to have the first meeting some time in July. Those interested in participating can contact the Batavia office at (585) 815-8501, Ext. 406. Once the group is formed, it will discuss issues that are not being addressed for people with disabilities.
A big one is the lack of handicapped parking right outside the Main Street office. Agency staff has been trying to get such a spot, but it must go through the state Department of Transportation since Main Street is on state Route 5.
“We will invite as many people as possible to participate,” she said. “We’re hoping the county will be involved. It would be very good to feel like we have a voice and a direct line to the Legislature.”
City Council has already agreed to be part of the effort and a request has gone to the county Legislature for consideration, she said.
Another project involves focus groups that are to include several service providers such as city and county law enforcement, the Department of Social Services, Genesee Justice, RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, DePaul, Care & Crisis Helpline, Care-A-Van Ministries, GCASA and the Youth Bureau.
They will be on a panel to answer questions about services that are and are not provided for youth 14 to 24 with disabilities. The categories are mental health, developmental disabilities, substance abuse and the legal system. This effort is being led by the Buffalo-based Independent Living and funded by a grant to identify gaps in these services.
Frank and her staff will then advocate to fill those voids. One example could be that kids can’t get jobs because they’ve had few volunteer experiences to gain some skills for a resume, she said. The solution would be to ask service providers and businesses to offer more volunteer opportunities for hands-on learning.
“When they leave high school, where do they go?” she said. “Employment is a first concern, for them to work in the mainstream.”
That grant may not be the only funding to come. Another grant has also allowed for three additional temporary employees to help stabilize one’s housing, whether it’s moving into an apartment, a group home or other type of residence. Government is changing the way money is trickling down to nonprofits, she said.
“It feels like different opportunities are coming in,” she said. “I think it’s becoming more competitive, which creates that dynamic to get the change happening.”
Her agency has also added the new position of care coordinator to help organize all of the needs for a consumer, such as arranging for a primary care doctor, mental health treatment, prescriptions, transportation, employment, housing and food.
The agency set a goal to serve 900 people last year and surpassed that with 1,200. Frank wants to see that number go even higher.
“We’re trying to identify our goals for the next five years,” she said. “We’re really happy to be growing.”