Open Letter to Staff

Open Letter to Staff

 Welcome to the busiest time of the year! I hope each of you has the time to enjoy the holiday preparation and holidays themselves with your family and friends. I thank all of you for the enjoyment you give to the individuals we serve during the holiday season through celebratory activities, enjoyable meals, relaxed time together, holiday decorating and gift giving.

It has been a busy fall. Benhaven celebrated its 50th anniversary with an incredible Gala that hosted over 300 individuals. It was an opportunity for families, individuals, staff, alumnae and community members to come together to enjoy time with one another and revel in the numerous and meaningful accomplishments of this organization over its lifespan. Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. was our keynote speaker and demonstrated his incredible advocacy for individuals we serve. Sharon “Shoosh” Lettick Crotzer spoke eloquently of her youthful days with her brother Ben and how he so greatly influenced her mother’s inspiration to create Benhaven.

For the first time Benhaven planned a fundraiser as part of the anniversary event. Through the efforts of numerous staff we held a Silent Auction and a Raffle, as well as soliciting cash contributions. We were able to raise $16,000 as a result, far surpassing our goal of $10,000! Thanks to the staff who made this such a success. We decided that each program area should determine how it wishes to use a portion of the funds raised to benefit the individuals we serve. Each program area has decided on the use of the money:

  • ·         The Academy is purchasing a 3D printer and all accessories for students to use
  • ·         Benhaven School is purchasing a lateral climbing wall for the gymnasium
  • ·         Individual and Family Support is purchasing a tool box of activities for assessments, community memberships for individuals, a weighted vest and other occupational and physical therapy equipment, and funding  transportation to community activities
  • ·         Residential Services will disperse their share to all of the homes to use for enrichment activities including day outings, vacations and a sensory room

 We are concentrating efforts to improve the quality of our services and expand to serve more individuals or offer other service options. We became a qualified provider of the new DSS program to provide behavioral in-home support to children and adolescents with autism. This is somewhat different from our existing IFS program in that it is available to all children with this diagnosis who receive Medicaid; requires the involvement of a BCBA or other licensed professional; and focuses on Applied Behavioral Analysis as it intervention model. Arlene Dworkin-Kay, BCBA, joined us last May to lead this new program: Children’s Behavioral Supports (CSB). The program serves ten children so far and we have hired four BCBAs and numerous in-home support staff to initiate these supports. The program is coordinating with IFS and we have the opportunity to share resources and expertise between the programs.

 The Academy went through its state accreditation review by the Department of Education last spring and was granted the highest level of accreditation which is five years. The reviewers were exceedingly complimentary of the Academy programs based not only on student plans but on their observations of classroom activities. I thank the administrative team at the Academy for their efforts to coordinate this review which requires significant time and organization of materials.

Benhaven School continues to focus on the reduction of the use of restraint and seclusion and demonstrates significant progress to the benefit of all of our students. This year effort is being made to also reduce the reliance on individual supervision to assist students to be better prepared for their transition to adult life by having greater skills and an ability to experience independence in some aspects of their daily routines.

Residential services is actively engaged in planning for both a reduction and an expansion. We realize it is difficult for six adolescents or young adults to live together and have set a goal to reduce the number of students who live in Nakash and Johnson to four over the next twelve - eighteen months. We also plan to reconfigure Northside so the individuals residing there are more comfortably matched, with a greater separation of the routines for individual living upstairs and downstairs. The goal is to create a greater sense of stability to the houses and the residents. We plan to open two new homes in the community that will each serve three or four individuals. This will allow us to continue to support our graduating residential students and accept up to three new individuals in residential services. We will have a more definite plan and timeline after we meet with DDS in January.

We continue to be involved in the customized employment training offered through a grant we received from the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities. Staff from all program areas have participated in the extensive training in discovery, job development and systematic instruction. Sam Picard, Lisa Jones and Allison Stankewicz are certified in Discovery and they and other staff are becoming certified in the other two areas. I believe our organization will be poised to utilize this learning many more individuals have meaningful paid employment. One of our residents was recently honored at the Association of People Supporting Employment first (APSE) conference. Each year DDS accepts nominations for individuals with disabilities who want to be an Employment Idol. The department created this opportunity several years ago to showcase the work and achievements of individuals with intellectual disabilities who work. David who lives at Oliver does river reclamation work for the city of New Haven was selected as one of the five employment idols this year. He was honored at the APSE conference in the fall. His video can be viewed on our website. Congratulations David!

The Legislature finally passed a biennial budget. It appears there will not be further reductions to the day and residential accounts but DDS cannot yet project that for providers with absolute certainty as the Governor still needs to make up for some shortfalls. While we feel more confident we must still work to be as efficient as possible. As you are all aware our health insurance costs are increasing for the coming year. We are absorbing 60% of the additional cost but have also had to ask each employee to pay more to cover these increases. We continue to analyze our budget and our expenditures to determine our ability to give salary increases in the future. Everyone on the senior management team is committed to creating efficiencies and determining how to increase revenue by next summer which begins a new fiscal year so we can give increases. We appreciate your efforts to be thoughtful about our expenditures to help us accomplish this critical goal.

The last several months have caused us uncertainty. It is a testament to this organization and the value we place on team work that all of you have continued your commitment to your work and the individuals you support. It is great at the end of the year to look back on so many accomplishments and new initiatives for Benhaven. We are a thriving agency because of all of our employees. I wish you each a new year of good health, peace and prosperity.






Tribute for Amy Lettick
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