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The Bridge To A Person-Centered Approach

“As they say in person-centered thinking, it’s better lives, not better paperwork,” states Roy Gerstenberger, former CEO of Community Bridges. Similar to the solid ground of The Granite State, Community Bridges has a strong foundation, which is focused on a person-centered approach to supports and services in New Hampshire. For more than a quarter century, they’ve been advancing the integration, growth and interdependence of people with disabilities in their home communities throughout the state. “We’re very proud of the New Hampshire systems and we’re very proud of what New Hampshire has been able to do,” says Gerstenberger.

But in an effort to strengthen their human services, Community Bridges set out to gain a broader perspective on best practices by looking beyond their state. This multi-year journey began with workshops conducted by Angela Amado of the University of Minnesota. Amado helped the organization refine their skills and strategies emphasizing the social inclusion of people with disabilities. “She has been running two-day workshops twice a year for us for several years. We’ve learned a lot from her,” states Gerstenberger. Amado then introduced Community Bridges to Michael Smull of Support Development Associates, who assisted the organization in their path to person-centeredness. At the recommendation of Smull and after an encounter at the Reinventing Quality Conference in 2014, Community Bridges decided to enhance their recent efforts through accreditation with CQL, The Council on Quality and Leadership.

“CQL stands out as an organization that has really focused for many years on a person-centered approach, to thinking about what quality really is,” states Gerstenberger, adding “the process of going through accreditation was learning in itself.” Through Quality Assurances Accreditation, Community Bridges began a partnership with CQL to embed person-centered practices more-deeply into their mission. “This was an exciting journey for CQL as well, as Community Bridges is our first organization accredited in the state of New Hampshire,” explains Becky Hansen, CQL’s former Chief Services Officer.

CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist Barney Hubert was able to experience Community Bridges’ commitment to quality first-hand, after touring and evaluating some of the supports and services that Community Bridges provides. “Barney asked a lot of questions on how services were provided in New Hampshire,” recalls Joshua Smith, Director of Residential and Day Services at Community Bridges, going on to say “not only did Community Bridges appear to be a leader, but also New Hampshire.” After months of preparation, comprehensive reviews, on-site visits and interviews with stakeholders, Community Bridges was recognized for their amazing accomplishment.

“We are so proud of Community Bridges’ Quality Assurances Accreditation, but accreditation is only the beginning of our journey together,” states Hansen. Community Bridges shares that same excitement for the future of this ongoing organizational transformation, with Gerstenberger saying “It’s not about just getting pretty scores or checkmarks, but it’s a reflection of actual changed lives. That’s what it’s all about.”