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     A variety of school staff members have gone in front of the camera to give testimonials about working at Wildwood School. The project, conceived of by Cindi Riggi and the communications team, is designed to help get the message out about what it is like working with Wildwood’s students and how it can be a rewarding career.

     “We want potential job candidates to get a clear picture of what working at school is like,” Cindy Riggi said. “We want the people who work here to let applicants know what to expect, how rewarding the career can be and what the realistic challenges can be like.

     Teachers, teaching assistants, music therapists, social workers, and art teachers all participated and shared what a work day and a career is like at school. Every testimonial was unique yet there were common themes throughout every interview. Those themes were commitment and caring for the students.

     “I love coming to work because every day is different,” Adrienne Galaraz says. “When you can see a student grow and develop it is so rewarding.

     While everyone acknowledged the challenges of school work, things like short staffing, challenging behaviors and managing many students at once, the challenges were overshadowed by the personal fulfillment from the work.

     “I have a great job. I get to share music with the students every day and play a small part in their growth and happiness,” Alec Betterley, music therapist says.

     Some of the staff who shared their testimonials were long tenured while others have joined Wildwood less than a year ago. Stephanie Berg has been a TA at school for over twenty years.

     “I stay here because of the culture. It really is a close-knit group of people and it is a great atmosphere to work in,” she says.

     Trystan Tallman just became a teacher. Despite the difference in tenures she shares many of the same feelings as Stephanie.

     “I love teaching. I love how the students respond and develop. Not every day is easy but you really get a chance to make a difference in someone’s life,” she says.

     The videos will be used for recruitment, in social media campaigns and for staff training.

    Self-Direction is a person-centered support that puts the individual and their family in the driver’s seat of service delivery. Self-Direction allows an individual and their loved ones to direct their own services. 

    To be eligible for Self-Direction an individual will need to be receiving the HCBS Waiver through OPWDD services.  With the assistance of their Care Manager an individual will request Self-Direction through OPWDD. After being approved for the service the individual and their family will attend an information session with OPWDD to learn the ins and outs of the program.

    It is important to note; the Self-Direction process can go as quickly or as slow as the individual needs to be comfortable in the process and to understand the program.  At any time an individual has the option to return to traditional services.

    After attending the OPWDD informational session an individual will choose their Fiscal Intermediary and Broker. Your Fiscal Intermediary provides support and services of hiring your staff, reimbursing you for services received. Your Broker is your guide and support who will assist you through Self-Direction by helping you maximize the usage of your budget and to assist you in finding staff.

“Self-direction is a great opportunity for a person to make decisions regarding many areas of their life.

People can obtain support for community  involvement, healthy choices, classes, and staffing,”

Michelle Tanner, Supervisor of Self-Direction at Wildwood

    After putting together your team, which includes your Fiscal Intermediary and Broker you will submit a start up budget. This budget gives the Broker funds to begin the planning process with you. During the start up phase you, with the assistance of your Broker, Care Manager, and loved ones called your Circle of Support will review your hopes, your dreams, your likes, your dislikes and your needs.  During this person-centered planning process your Care Manager will complete a needs assessment, this assessment determines your annual Self-Direction budget amount.  Once a budget amount is determined you will sit down with your Circle of Support and prioritize what will be in your budget to help you achieve those hopes and dreams you identified during the person -centered planning process.

    In Self-Direction there are 3 types of budgets.  The first is a both plan, this means all community and residential supports are in your budget. A residential only plan, which would just be your home supports or other than a residential plan, which is everything but your home needs and supports.  The type of plan you will have depends on what is currently happening in your life and your needs.  Your broker will guide you through these 3 types of budgets during the person centered planning process and help you choose the right one for you. 

    Under all 3 types of budget plans you have the ability to choose to Self-Hire or direct provider purchased services for Community Habilitation, Respite and Employment Services.   To Self-Hire staff you with the assistance of your broker will decide the hours and rate of pay for your staff, but they will be required to be hired through your Fiscal Intermediary and follow the rules and regulations of the program through OPWDD. Self-Hire also means with the assistance of your broker you would be responsible for finding your staff.  Under direct provider purchased services you pick a provider in the community to deliver the service of Community Habilitation, Respite, and/or Employment Services to you.  The provider you choose will determine the rate of pay for staff and find the staff you will work with.   Under Self-Direction, the choice is yours on which way you would like to be supported through these services.

“Self-Direction is a very helpful support to my husband and me. We can stay in our home and pay our bills.

We have a good Circle of Support who help us when we have questions and we have a lot of them!”

says Tamelia Fritz, who participates in self-direction.

    Self-Direction is a program for all ages and is a program you will be able to adapt and change as you grow and as your life changes.  When you graduate from high school your budget will increase as you will not be in school and may need additional support during the day.  Over time if an individual builds the skills necessary and wants to move out of their loved one’s home they will be able to access a rental assistance program through their self-direction budget.  For an adult accessing Self-Direction services they may also receive assistance in contributing to utilities, phone reimbursement, and much more. 

    Each Self-Direction plan is unique to the person and has the adaptability to change as your life grows and changes.  Your Self-Direction plan can be reviewed and updated anytime you like by reaching out to your broker and your team to make any changes you like.  

    Self-Direction is a service that truly puts you in control and lets you decide how the supports and services you want and need to achieve your dreams. In the words of one of our participants in Self-Direction: 

“I love Self-Direction. It helps me do what I want in life. I am very happy and I am having fun,”

says Michelle Summers, self-direction participant.

 For more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Self-Direction team here at Wildwood:

Amber Suttle, Director of Self-Directed Services asuttle@wildwoodprograms.org

Michelle Tanner, Self-Direction Supervisor  mtanner@wildwoodprograms.org

Moriah Roberts, Asst Supervisor of Self-Direction mroberts@wildwoodprograms.org

 For more general information regarding Self-Direction, please feel free to visit OPWDD website: https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/self-direction

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