It has been almost a year since I joined Benhaven as your Executive Director. I have had the opportunity to meet many of you in my visits to our educational programs and residences. Your dedication, respect for individuals you serve and ability to provide quality individualized supports is evident. There is a sense of engaging and meaningful activities in all of our programs that further individuals learning and skill building, prepare them to enjoy life in their communities and develop their interests.  It is an honor to be a part of your administrative team.

We have started some new initiatives and developed a strategic plan to help guide us for the next three years. The plan has been developed by the Senior Management Team and many of you participated in planning meetings last fall and winter to provide your input to the planning process. We have developed a plan with some flexibility so we can incorporate the ideas of our customers and funders and respond to changes that may occur to our funding in the coming fiscal year. We have received input from the Board of Directors and they approve of our direction. The plan focuses on program improvement; program expansion; improved communication; staff resource development; and organizational support. I will soon make the summary of the plan available on the website

Part of this plan is to determine the best areas for Benhaven to expand who we serve and what types of programs we offer to continue our mission. We have become qualified to provide a new Medicaid program for children and adolescents with autism who need clinical and behavioral support in their homes. It is similar to the current Individual and Family Support program with a few distinctions. Because it is a Medicaid State Plan program if is available to all children on Medicaid with autism who meet the need criteria. It requires that the behavioral plan is developed and overseen by a BCBA or licensed clinician. It focuses as much on training the family as it does on supporting the child. Arlene Dworkin-Kaye, M.S. CCC- SLP, BCBA, has joined us as the Director of this program, Children’s Behavioral Services (CBS). She and Tacie Lowe, IFS Director are working collaboratively to make sure we coordinate in-home supports for children and share our staff resources.

We also received a grant from the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities this year to participate in a comprehensive training and certification process for staff to provide customized employment for individuals with developmental disabilities. Benhaven is one of seven providers in the state who were chosen from an RFP process to be certified. We have staff from the Academy, Residential Services and IFS who will be certified in the various stages of planning, securing and supporting individuals in work. Staff from the School are also participating in the training. We are proud that Lisa Jones, Sam Picard and Alison Stankewicz have all become certified in the first phase of the qualification process. We are planning to have at least three individuals employed in jobs that fit their interests and skill by December, making at least minimum wage and working 15 hours a week.

Another area of both program improvement and expansion is being undertaken by Residential Services. We want to have the capacity to serve more individuals in community settings and also to reduce the number of adolescents who live together at Johnson and Nakash. We believe that we can improve both the residents’ quality of life and the staff’s work environment if we have four rather than six individuals live together in each house. We also plan to have some of the students continue to be served by Benhaven as they graduate from school and transition to adult services. This means developing new homes in the community over the next two to three years. It will also allow us to hire more staff and provide promotional opportunities to staff who demonstrate the ability to assume more responsibility.

These are just examples of the most concrete areas of expansion. You will have the opportunity to discuss the plan with your Area Director and understand the impact of the plan on you and your program.

We are undertaking these activities in a time of uncertainty in term of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that starts in July. As you know the Legislature has not passed the budget for the next biennium. We have projected our budget based on this year’s allocations and expenditures. It has been approved by the Board of Directors. Benhaven had a successful year in FY17. As a result the Board of Directors will be able to finalize the amount we contribute to employee pensions this month. As a result of the uncertainty we are not able to institute a raise this summer. We have proposed to the Board that we plan on a 2% COLA to take effect in January 2018 which will be annualized going forward. This will remain a proposal until we have our budget finalized by the state agencies that fund our IFS and Residential Programs. We remain hopeful that the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of our services will continue to be recognized and valued and Benhaven will be fairly compensated. Our ability to continue to provide quality services and be highly regarded by all of our funders is a result of your individual contributions and the leadership and dedication of your Managers and Area Directors.

On a very positive note we are also planning the Gala to celebrate Benhaven’s 50th Anniversary. It is planned for October 19th at the Woodwinds in Branford. We have a program committee and a fund raising committee at work to make it a successful event. Program areas will be putting together baskets for the Silent Auction. Staff are also reaching out to vendors and families they know to seek contributions of services and items for the Silent Auction. If you want to help us in this effort contact your Area Director for the letter you can use that explains the event and indicates the tax advantage for individuals who make a contribution. We also hope you will all be able to attend!

I will keep you informed of both our program developments and the budget for the coming year as we have more information. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or wish to share any concerns.

Kathryn du Pree

"Positive Approaches"
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