Celebrating 20 Years of Supporting Independence
Life Skills & Support Provides Adults with Disabilities Person-Centered Residential Service
Life Skills & Support, a residential support program through Rocky Mountain Human Services, helps clients, like Charles Serna (right), live as independently as possible in the community. The program connected him to host home provider Sheri Price (left).
Decades ago, Charles Serna bounced around between living situations, from boarding homes to group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). He didn’t have the freedom to do many of the things he loves, like visit Elitch Gardens, eat at Wendy’s and watch television when he liked.
“I didn’t have too much fun there,” Charles said.
Today, Charles can do all those things and more thanks to help from Life Skills & Support, a program of Rocky Mountain Human Services that opens doors to new opportunities for adults with I/DD.
The program provides individualized residential support that fosters inclusion and empowers individuals to gain independence, advocate for themselves and reach their full potential. Life Skills & Support is celebrating 20 years of service this year, and Charles was one of its first clients.
Life Skills & Support offers three models of care:
Supported Residential Services help adults with I/DD live in their own home or apartment.
Family Caregiver Services train family members to become paid care providers.
Host Home Services connect adults with disabilities to highly qualified community members who wish to share their homes.
Each model is funded by Medicaid and subject to eligibility. Private-pay options are also available.
When the program first started as a residential agency, it owned about 10 group homes and also offered host homes. Charles started at Life Skills & Support in 2000 and briefly lived in a group home, moving into a host home at the end of 2002. By then, Life Skills & Support had transitioned from staffed group homes to host home settings.
Life Skills & Support hires extensively screened and background-checked host home providers. Then, Life Skills & Support staff connect clients to host homes providers who are a great long-term fit. Charles tried out a few host homes, finding his best match with provider Sheri Price. He has lived with her for eight years and has no plans to leave anytime soon.
“I like her personality and her happiness,” Charles said. “She cooks good food.”
Charles has more freedom than ever with Sheri. He has his own bedroom and television, so he can watch what he wants when he wants. He goes to Wendy’s once a week with Sheri, and at home, she cooks his meals, including Charles’ favorite – baked chicken with rice and vegetables.
Charles visits his family and spends time with his nephew on the weekends. He also has a roommate at Sheri’s house, Shirleen Olson, who is another Life Skills & Support client.
Charles gains independence through his friendship with Shirleen. Without her, he wouldn’t be able to get out of the house as often. Charles isn’t very good at staying safe when he walks near busy roads on his own, which limits his ability to go where he pleases. Shirleen has great safety skills and can accompany him when he wants to go somewhere fun.
“Shirleen and I go to movies and all sorts of places,” Charles said.
Charles and Shirleen often spend time at Elitch Gardens together. His Residential Specialist Donna Smith knew how much Elitch Gardens meant to Charles, so she helped him budget and save for a season pass. Charles has two part-time jobs, which helps him earn the $180 needed for the pass.
“He’s a good worker,” Donna said. “He likes making money.”
Staff at Life Skills & Support are uniquely invested in their clients, forming genuine lasting connections. Over Donna’s eight years as Charles’ residential specialist, she has become an important part of his life, and he looks forward to seeing her.
“I visit him every month, sometimes twice a month,” Donna said. “I know that he loves his home.”
He has grown to trust Donna, which improves his communication about his needs. Donna also can sense if he is sad, upset or isn’t feeling well.
“I tell her if something is going wrong, like medications, or if I have a fall,” Charles said.
Developing Life Skills
Donna helped Charles build a strong interdisciplinary team of providers who support his needs. The team is made up of job coaches, health care providers, a service coordinator, Donna and Sheri. They work together to ensure Charles has all the resources he needs to achieve his goals.
“Everybody on Charles’ team loves him. They do everything they can to support him,” Donna said.
His team has helped him with money management, social skills and learning appropriate behaviors. Charles pays his room and board, so money management is an important skill that allows him to cover his expenses, save for his future and buy the things he likes.
Charles continues to grow his social skills by improving his communication and learning appropriate behaviors. For example, Charles’ love of food got him in trouble at work, because he would take other people’s snacks. The issue put one of his jobs on the line, but Donna and Charles’ job coach helped him turn things around. He no longer takes people’s food, because he knows he has his own, and he knows taking food could affect his job.
Donna and Sheri also helped Charles develop strong independent living skills. Charles makes sure his room is tidy, keeps up with his laundry and follows a bathroom cleaning schedule with Shirleen.
Life Skills & Support has helped him to live as independently as he can, and he values the freedom he’s gained as a client. He’s been able to do the things he enjoys and live the way he likes.
To learn more about Life Skills & Support, visit www.rmhumanservices.org/lss.