There was an unexpected silence in the room, especially considering it was a kick-off event, a celebration, and hundreds of people were present. This undivided attention was given to advocates who, unsolicited, spoke out about the issues that were important to them. They knew that their voices would be heard, because ARC of Rockland knows how to listen. The conviction behind those outspoken voices and open ears didn’t happen overnight, it was a journey that was years in the making. “The foundation’s been set for that voice to be heard even louder than it was heard in the past,” says Carmine Marchionda, Executive Director of ARC of Rockland.
ARC of Rockland started out as a small group of dedicated parents 60 years ago, and has grown into an organization supporting more than 1,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from infancy through older age. ARC of Rockland has always been committed to a person-centered approach, but a few years ago they wanted to make a strong statement. Along with other ARC chapters in the New York metro area, ARC of Rockland has launched a pilot program which will lead towards managed care. In addition, it was decided that CQL, The Council on Quality and Leadership, would help them take that commitment to the next level. “If you’re in this industry you know that having CQL accreditation is important,” says Marchionda, adding “CQL is the gold standard in our field.”
The process for achieving Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation was not an easy one, including on-site and off-site reviews, self-assessments, evaluations, reporting, data collection, analysis. “They worked hard, were well prepared and really engaged a tremendous group of organizational stakeholders in this process,” says Becky Hansen, (former) Chief Services Officer at CQL.
The ARC of Rockland staff members also achieved CQL Certification as Personal Outcome Measures® Interviewers. The certified interviewers in turn trained employees in all positions, including the agency’s Executive Director, in conducting hundreds of interviews with people supported.
“It’s a very clear message to them that their voice in the organization is important. It’s really about their outcomes,” Marchionda states. ARC of Rockland utilized CQL’s Personal Outcome Measures® to listen to the people they support, and direct services based on their dreams, demands, wishes and wants.
While Personal Outcome Measures® have been around for decades and are the foundation of CQL, ARC of Rockland’s particular experience was new for all parties. In 2015, CQL released an accreditation menu to provide various options for a diverse group of organizations, and ARC of Rockland was the first organization to be accredited under this new menu.
“The ARC of Rockland was a great agency to work with to kick of the new accreditation menu,” says Hansen. It was a new year, a new accreditation, and a new partnership between ARC of Rockland and CQL. Prior to the accreditation a team of CQL employees, including Becky Hansen along with Quality Enhancement Specialists Jill Westring and Jeff Shoemaker, conducted a five day on-site evaluation. This evaluation included a comprehensive review of organizational self-assessments and policies, service site visits, and focus groups. “This is what the accreditation process is all about; discovering where the agency is at today and developing a collective dream for the future,” states Hansen.
On January 9th, 2015, ARC of Rockland was formally recognized for their achievement of Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation. They hosted a kick-off event, a celebration, and hundreds of people were present. At the end of it, ARC of Rockland opened up the event to questions and comments.
“There were so many individuals that we support in the community who came forward to the microphone, that reflected on situations in their lives,” states Marchionda. One advocate in particular spoke passionately about the importance of his circle of support, and the sounds of silence in the crowd spoke volumes. You could have heard a pin drop. He went into detail about what it means to him, having a close connection with people who help him carry out his life plans. “It’s their friends. It’s people in the community. It’s their family. It’s their employer,” says Marchionda.
Everyone has a circle of support. They act as a guide through the greatest challenges and join in to celebrate the successes. “We had our final debriefing here and shared with Becky, Jeff and Jill that we consider them to be part of our circle of support,” says Marchionda. This partnership between CQL and ARC of Rockland is a circle of support that carries far beyond an accreditation. “I was really pleased with the whole endeavor, and it’s just the beginning now. It’s not the end,” adds Marchionda.