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IOI Builds A Positive Culture Across Tennessee And Oklahoma

By Elizabeth Sites, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist

An environment where staff feel appreciated, a dedication to high-quality service provision, strong advocacy for people to achieve their goals – these are just a few observations I’ve made about the culture and values of Independent Opportunities, Inc. (IOI). The human services organization, which operates out of Oklahoma and Tennessee, has embedded principles such as dignity, respect, and empowerment across its agency and within its services.

“We support each other and are like a family. I love that about IOI.”

Debra C., Direct Support Professional, Independent Opportunities, Inc

I’ve had the honor of engaging with those connected to IOI throughout their recent CQL Accreditation, including staff members, people supported, and their families. In my conversations with people receiving services, they shared how much they love the staff. Likewise, employees described how valued they feel by IOI and that the organization genuinely cares about staff and people supported. As you’ll find out, Independent Opportunities, Inc. has worked tirelessly to build a culture of dignity and respect for all people.

About Independent Opportunities, Inc.

The story of IOI began in the 1980s. At that time Ray Nichols, current Board President of Independent Opportunities, Inc., was asked by the State of Oklahoma to start a human services organization that provides residential services. Independent Opportunities, Inc. was formally established in Oklahoma during September 1989, then expanded into Tennessee a decade later in 1999.

Independent Opportunities Inc. Logo

Today, through its mission Independent Opportunities, Inc. is “dedicated to providing the highest quality residential services to people with developmental disabilities.” Their supports now impact more than a hundred people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in Tennessee and roughly 200 people in Oklahoma.

IOI Achieves Its First Term of CQL Quality Assurances Accreditation

Leading up to the agency’s accreditation review, there were a number of different components and steps throughout that first part of the process. This included their submission of the Request for Engagement form, introductory calls, planning meetings, and the organization’s completion of its Basic Assurances® Self-Assessment. When the time came for the actual review, I worked alongside the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ (DIDD) accreditation reviewers Latrese Johnson and Sandy Huneycutt, due to DIDD’s Network Accreditation status.

On March 18, 2022, Independent Opportunities, Inc.’s Tennessee services officially achieved CQL’s Quality Assurances Accreditation. This important designation followed roughly a week of us gaining deeper insight into IOI through a review of Personal Outcome Measures® interviews, focus groups, visits where services are provided, and our validation of the self-assessment. Latrese, Sandy, and I worked throughout that week with IOI’s leadership team, direct support staff, people receiving services, family members, etc. to get a better idea of how the organization’s policies and practices impact people’s lives.

“I love what we stand for. I love the mission IOI is on and I am here to fully support that.”

Tiera B., Program Director, Independent Opportunities, Inc.

I want to congratulate IOI on achieving CQL Accreditation! It takes a lot of dedication, focus, and investment of time and resources. Their hard work certainly paid off and this accomplishment speaks to IOI’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its services and supporting people to have fulfilling lives.

Independent Opportunities, Inc.: Some First-Hand Perspective

Sure, I could go on about my observations and experiences regarding Independent Opportunities, Inc., but we also wanted to hear from them directly. To learn a little bit more about their agency and their approach to supports and services we asked Ann Williams, Tennessee State Director of Independent Opportunities, Inc. a number of questions. This is what Ann had to say about the organization and why a positive and supportive culture is so important to them.

What are some changes at your organization over the last few years?

Obviously, the pandemic has changed the way most businesses have operated over the last several years. At Independent Opportunities, Inc., we have worked hard to ensure the safety of the people we support and our employees, while at the same time retaining the person-centered approach to providing supports.

We have made concerted efforts surrounding communication and education about COVID-19 with individuals supported, their families, and other stakeholders, as well as our employees. By providing education and personal protective equipment, evaluating risks, and working with individuals supported to develop plans for remaining in or re-entering community settings safely, the people we support have been able to keep connected to their communities through employment and activities with families and friends.

What are your goals as an organization?

IOI’s goals are to continue to increase education to people supported and employees at all levels regarding the rights of individuals, and to further improve on the attainment of personal outcomes by helping individuals supported take a more active role in driving their supports and services. By focusing on these two areas, the quality of services provided will improve and people will be empowered to self-advocate and reach their goals.

Why did you decide to pursue CQL Accreditation?

In Tennessee, DIDD has achieved CQL Network Accreditation. Services for people supported through Medicaid long-term services and supports (LTSS) programs will be aligned under the direct operational leadership, management, and oversight of DIDD.

By attaining CQL Accreditation, Independent Opportunities, Inc. has further aligned itself to be recognized as a preferred provider of support services among managed care organizations (MCOs), DIDD, and individuals seeking services.

How did you prepare for your CQL Accreditation?

We prepared for CQL Accreditation by ensuring management/leadership team members attended training on Personal Outcomes Measures® and participated in a Basic Assurances® Self-Assessment with DIDD prior to the start of the pandemic. Once the commitment was made to pursue CQL Accreditation, leaders within the organization met to conduct a new Basic Assurances® Self-Assessment and to educate people supported, their families, and employees about the accreditation process.

What organizational values or practices are you most proud of?

Independent Opportunities, Inc. has always put the people supported first. Their needs, desires, and opinions are important and are the driving force behind what we do. We have developed a culture that runs through all levels of the organization that supports people receiving services and puts their needs above those of the organization.

“IOI is a great atmosphere where you can be yourself and you don’t have to be anybody else.”

Tyler M., person supported by Independent Opportunities, Inc.

Have questions about CQL Accreditation?

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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.