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Serving the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Community in Denver Part Two

Serving the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Community in Denver Part Two

This two-part series will feature 11 of the 2020 mill levy-funded community initiatives highlighting their success and flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) provides mill levy funding for organizations that provide unique services and resources to Denver residents. In 2020, there were 27 of these external initiatives, which received nearly $2.9 million in mill levy funding. The projects were diverse in scope and purpose and helped to fill critical gaps in services for Denver residents with developmental delays or disabilities. What follows are profiles of some of those valued partners.

Mission Supports

Mission Support staff with Denver client Janet Snell-Smith.
Mission Support staff with Denver client Janet Snell-Smith.

Colorado Fund for People with Disabilities (CFPD) program Mission Supports helps teenagers and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Denver who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness gain stability. Staff help people achieve stability through transitional case management, and assistance in navigating the eligibility process for services and benefits specific to an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). An example would be helping people supported navigate the process for long-term state or Medicaid services.

Many of the homeless individuals Mission Supports works with visit the hospital 15 to 20 times a year according to Arnie Swenson, Director of Essential Life Services at CFPD. Their disabilities are not always obvious or discussed during these visits causing a barrier to find the help they need especially for those without a formal diagnosis or who are unaware of their disability. Mission Supports helps those whose status is unclear go through the official developmental disability determination process with Rocky Mountain Human Services so they can find the right support they need.

Probate Power

Photo of CCDC Probate Power managing attorney Chris Brock
CCDC Probate Power managing attorney Chris Brock

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition’s program Probate Power provides high quality legal representation and special needs planning to the Colorado disability community. Probate Power helps families create understandable estate plans that protect loved ones with disabilities, and guides families through the probate process when a loved one passes away. The program was created to address a community need for special needs trusts, guardianships and estate planning.

Special needs planning helps families create a game plan to ensure their loved ones with special needs are taken care of in the future. The program supports individuals and families with special needs as they prepare and maintain eligibility for public assistance programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), create special needs trusts, appoint guardianships and create estate plans to manage assets when a loved one passes away.

Laradon FIT program

Diapers in the trunk of Perla Manquero’s car before a drop off.
Diapers in the trunk of Perla Manquero’s car before a drop off.

Even in the best of times, diapers and baby wipes can be a big expense for families. Last year, with supply shortages and economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been anything but the best of times for many families.

Laradon, a Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) Mill Levy partner, quickly adapted its services to help families in need receive basic baby care supplies through its Family, Infant and Toddler (FIT) Program.

The generous support of Denver taxpayers allowed RMHS to put mill levy funds toward the effort. “A lot of families are having a hard time financially right now,” said Perla Manquero, FIT family navigator. “Diapers and wipes are expensive.”

The Laradon FIT program provides additional support to children with special needs and their families by connecting them to resources and financial assistance. With the additional support FIT received from the Mill Levy program, the organization will be able to support families with diapers and wipes for their children for the next two months.

“These days there are resources for diapers and wipes all over, but many families do not have a means of getting there,” Perla said.

Transportation has been among the top issues for families struggling to access resources in the community. Perla finds many families cannot travel far due to the lack of transportation which blocks their access to many resources in the community.

Wayfaring Band

Wayfaring Band staff photo
Wayfaring Band staff from left to right: Executive Director Andrea Moore, Community Engagement employee Faith Vidrine, Program Director Kendall Hagar and Program Manager Jen GaNun.

Wayfaring Band forms connections between people of all abilities through experiences and activities that educate and build awareness. Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in the program learn skills around independent living, relationships, advocating and social skills. The experiences open doors to connect with diverse communities and people, and create long-lasting impacts.

Last year, Wayfaring Band found it needed to adapt to the current climate to support the people they serve. To create safe experiences, the organization used remote technology to connect, they offered artist salons, virtual travel around the world, talent shows, discussion groups, and an ongoing dance party on Zoom. Wayfaring Band aimed to alleviate loneliness during stay-at-home orders, organize food deliveries and nurture important relationships through network and Zoom calls.

Access Gallery

Access Gallery staff photo
Access Gallery staff retreat at the Easterseals Camp. From Left to right: Executive Director Damon McLeese, Studio Manager/Studio/Artist Javier Flores, Lead Program Artist/Educational Director Rebecca Petty, Marketing and Sales Director Amy Siegel, Associate Director Cris Ciani and Digital Studio Manager Andre Rodriquez.

Access Gallery opens doors to creative, educational and economic art opportunities for adults with I/DD. Founded upon a job readiness model, Access Gallery makes it possible for individuals to explore a variety of work options in the arts, learn workplace skills, and successfully sell their individual and collaborative pieces through the gallery. The nonprofit provides individuals exposure to innovative, accessible and creative art experiences. The program offers support through classes, mentorship opportunities, seasonal art projects and more.

Last year, Access Gallery transitioned its work online to create more accessible options for adults to continue working on art skills, provide mentoring, and allow safe space for creative exploration and project development while at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guided by Humanity

Guided by Humanity staff photo
Guided by Humanity staff in the yoga studio. From Left to right: Program Manager Rachel Kaplan, Founder and Lead Instructor Mary Medellin Sims, Registered Yoga Teacher Claire Gonzales, and Yoga Instructor Kristine Minteer.

Guided by Humanity (GBH) creates an environment for healthy coping strategies through exercise and the practice of mindfulness for people of all abilities. In its classes GBH teaches mindfulness to promote skills that teach students how to control their well-being through yoga, nutritional eating and cooking. The classes are conducted in ways that are trauma sensitive and accessible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Last year, the yoga classes went online to protect the safety of everyone attending. The classes allowed for community support and connection and mindful movement to reduce feelings of isolation. The focus of the classes shifted to promote safety and friendship.

Our 2020 Mill Levy community partners have adapted to unforeseen circumstances last year to better fit the needs of the community served. The generous support of taxpayers has helped the intellectual developmental communities in Denver for many years. Most Mill Levy partners extended their contracts into 2021. Stay up-to-date with the Mill Levy program by visiting

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