By Kendra Julius, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist
There are only a handful of organizations that have achieved CQL’s Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction. Core Services of Northeast Tennessee has just joined this exclusive group of providers that are aligning with the most rigorous standards in human services.
I’ve had the honor of working with Core Services of Northeast Tennessee throughout their pursuit of Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction. From the first introductory planning call to the recent virtual visits, I’ve been struck by their holistic embrace of not only the values and philosophies of CQL Accreditation – but also the specific practices and supports that put those ideals into action.
Specifically, their application of the Personal Outcome Measures® in person-centered discovery and person-centered planning showcases their commitment to people living fulfilling lives of their choosing. It is evident that people supported by Core Services of Northeast Tennessee are the commanders of their own lives and the organization always approaches what they learn in each person’s interview about personal hopes and desires as a challenge to redefine services for each individual person.
Because of this, Core Services is at the cutting-edge of integrating technology into their supports, leading to the improvement of independence and self-direction for people receiving services. In addition, the organization’s focus on workforce issues impacting direct support professionals (DSPs) is proving to have a demonstrable effect on not only the employees themselves, but also on those who receive their services.
About Core Services of Northeast Tennessee
Core Services of Northeast Tennessee is a non-profit organization supporting people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in Northeast Tennessee across three counties. They offer a range of services involving supported living, employment, respite, personal assistance, funds management, nursing, and more. Core Services of Northeast Tennessee is licensed by the State of Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD).
The agency has completed Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities requirements for designation as a ‘Person-Centered Organization.’ They are also an “Enabling Technology Transformation Agency” and a provider mentor through the DIDD Tennessee Employment First Leadership Initiative (TEFLI).
Core Services of Northeast Tennessee was also a recipient of a 2017 CQL Award of Excellence, acknowledging their successes in reducing rights restrictions. Due to their proactive steps, people receiving services experienced a 40% reduction in rights restrictions.
Enhanced Standards for Core Services
On January 29, 2021, Core Services of Northeast Tennessee officially achieved Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction. This is the ‘highest’ level of CQL Accreditation, and involves stricter eligibility criteria, enhanced standards, and heightened expectations for the organization.
The increased accreditation requirements include the use of CQL Certification, initiatives to improve community impact, efforts involving advocacy and self-advocacy, the utilization of an integrated quality management plan, and more. Core Services of Northeast Tennessee exemplifies how innovative strategies to support people always begins with truly listening to the person about what they want and then determining how, not if, supports are possible for people to have the lives they want.
This achievement of this accreditation type is not easy. Organizations pursuing Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction, must devote a substantial amount of time and resources to align with its standards. We would like to extend our deepest congratulations to Core Services of Northeast Tennessee for their significant achievement!
Core Services’ Accreditation Experience
We wanted to share more information about the organization, the impact of its services, and the role of accreditation, so we got in touch with Susan Arwood, Executive Director of Core Services of Northeast Tennessee. Through a series of questions, Susan offers additional perspective about their approach to improving the quality of their supports and the quality of people’s lives.
What are your goals as an organization?
Our goals are to support people in creating exceptional lives. We envision a support model where people self-direct their lives to the greatest extent possible. As a Tennessee Enabling Technology Transformation Agency, we hope to help establish a movement and system change where people decide where, when, and how they want paid supports.
Why did you decide to pursue CQL Accreditation?
In 2014/2015, we were struggling on how to implement the HCBS Settings Final Rule. CQL seemed like an excellent roadmap to truly living the full intent of the rules. Using CQL tools and principles resulted in an agency shift and so many good things happened.
Four years ago, when we first pursued Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation we began a transformation. We changed how we talked, how we listened, and how we provided supports. We realized that people did not want a lifetime of good services. People wanted really good lives.
As we set out to support people to create good lives – one person at a time – wonderful things started occurring. Pursuing the “With Distinction” designation seemed like the next logical step in our journey to drive us toward the ideals of person-centered supports.
What is the impact of accreditation on your employees?
What we did not realize at the beginning of our journey was that happy people results in happier staff. Our direct support professional (DSP) vacancy rate dropped to less than 5%. Our DSP retention rate was doubled – reducing overtime cost. The money saved from these changes allowed us to raise DSP wages and add benefits like a 401(k). We no longer had to advertise for DSP positions because 75% of the job applicants walking through our door were employee referred, and as a result, a much higher caliber of applicant.
What is the impact on people you support?
Traditional planning only touched the surface of what mattered to people and created many faulty assumptions. The Personal Outcome Measures® gave us the opportunity to listen differently to people and we learned so many new things. People wanted jobs, vacations, new housemates. People started going on vacations, dating, and pursuing recreational interest.
- 41% of the people we support became employed.
- 60% were supported to choose a housemate or make a housing change.
- 63% started worshipping at the church of their choice.
As I shared earlier, we became an ‘Enabling Technology Transformation Agency’ and were able to reduce paid supports for 22% of the people receiving services. In addition, program enrollment increased by 31%.
Have questions about CQL Accreditation?
# # #
Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.
Enhanced Standards for CQL Accreditation, With Distinction
This webinar covers the enhanced standards for Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation | With Distinction. It offers in-depth information about the standards and answers questions from organizations.View The Webinar
A Distinct Accreditation For Core Services of Northeast Tennessee