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News (Noticias)

Mission Supports: Stigmas in the I/DD Community

Mission Supports helps individuals identify what they need to get them connected to the right services.

A Mission Supports staff member with a person supported

Stigmas around labeling a people as “developmentally disabled” can affect their ability to get the help they need, and that’s especially true for people experiencing homelessness. Yet, without that information, it can be difficult to connect people to the right services.

“In some homeless shelters, case managers will shy away from asking a person if they have an intellectual disability or if they were in Special Ed due to possibly offending the person,” said Arnie Swenson, director of Mission Supports. “By being able to identify a diagnosis they can connect them to I/DD services they need.”

Arnie works for Colorado Fund for People with Disabilities (CFPD) and runs a program called Mission Supports that helps people achieve stability through transitional case management and navigating the eligibility process for services and benefits specific to an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). The program, funded through Denver tax dollars, helps teenagers and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Denver who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, navigate the process for long- term state or Medicaid services.

Most Denverites with I/DD who Arnie supports visit Denver Health 15 to 20 times in a year. Unfortunately, their disabilities are not always obvious or discussed during these visits. This has been a barrier to finding the help they need.

The difficulty is compounded by the fact that many people have never had a formal diagnosis or are unaware of their disability. For those people who are unsure, Mission Supports can help them go through the official developmental disability determination process with Rocky Mountain Human Services.

Getting people, the help they need

“Everyone that we’ve met has some type of PTSD because of being homeless,” said Arnie.

Life on the streets is difficult. The people supported by Mission Supports have volunteered stories about incidents of sexual and physical assault, frostbite during the winter and more.

Just this month, Missions Supports helped a man experiencing homelessness become the first person to get public guardianship under the Colorado Office of Public Guardianship, a milestone that came with the support of his parents and grandparents. CFPD’s Mission Supports and Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition helped him apply for guardianship and he was among the first few applicants to join the new public guardianship program.

“He now has an advocate who is going to be with him after his mom passes away,” Arnie said.

His family now has peace of mind that he will have someone to guide and help him, even when they are gone.

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