WMU News

New alliance serves area residents with disabilities

June 25, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- An effort to better serve people with disabilities took a step forward on Friday, June 25, when the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees authorized the administration to form an alliance between the University's Center for Disability Services and two local community organizations.

The proposed alliance would be called The Alliance for Community Supports and would help the Center for Disability Services and the community agencies MRC Industries Inc. and Residential Opportunities Inc. better meet the demands of today's rapidly changing health care environment, says Carol Sundberg, director of the WMU center.

"Joining the strengths of multiple agencies would help minimize the drawbacks of managed care and capitalize on the potential for improved services, while maintaining local community values," Sundberg says. "By working together each of us could better serve our clients."

The alliance would offer services to people with disabilities under contractual relationships with state, local and private funding sources and provide a comprehensive network of individualized, high quality and efficient support to help people with a variety of needs live successfully in the community.

It also would provide collaborative opportunities for member organizations to improve services, create new services and enhance access to managed care contracts while maintaining each organization's mission and values.

Formerly the Center for Developmentally Disabled Adults, the Center for Disability Services has been administered by WMU's College of Health and Human Services since it was founded in 1981 and offers community-based and clinic-based services to 130 adults with disabilities.

By forming an alliance, its clients and those at other alliance organizations would benefit by having alliance members pool their expertise and offer increased service options and greater flexibility in how services are arranged. The alliance also would focus on reducing costs by sharing resources and eliminating duplication of services.

Clients could see more flexible scheduling and more "person-centered" services, while alliance members could more efficiently use staff and transportation resources.

"The college is very pleased to endorse the establishment of this alliance," says Dr. Janet I. Pisaneschi, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "In addition to leveraging the excellent work of the three members, it would provide our students who train at these sites with a fine example of effective community partnering."

MRC Industries Inc. has been a non-profit corporation since 1949 and offers vocational services to 300 adults with disabilities. Residential Opportunities Inc. was founded in 1978 as a non-profit corporation that offers residential services to 157 adults with disabilities in 19 group homes and 22 rental units.

Like WMU's Center for Disability Services, both organizations are funded by Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and are Greater Kalamazoo United Way member agencies. Being alliance members would help both agencies offer a wider range of services to their clients.

"MRC Industries views the alliance as a wonderful opportunity to improve current services and create new services that are needed and wanted by people with disabilities," says Sally Lindsay, board president of MRC Industries. "The collaborative expertise of each of the partner organizations would provide the flexibility to focus more directly on the service needs of each individual."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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