As part of the Q&A series with our Executive Team, we spoke with Clara Thompson, Vice President of Community Living and Home Supports, about JEVS Human Services’ expansion into NJ, acquiring residential homes, and creating additional services and supports for individuals with a wide range of disabilities.
Q. JEVS recently acquired 10 additional community homes from Blossom Philadelphia. Can you describe what it means to be able to provide even more disabled individuals with safe, comfortable homes?
A. Being able to provide more individuals with disabilities with safe, comfortable homes really fits with the JEVS mission. We really want to make life good for people and support them to participate fully in the community. As we got involved in the Blossom transition, we realized that these individuals have some real unmet needs. We want to not only provide them with safe homes and support their medical needs, but also use community resources to help them enjoy activities and achieve as much as they can achieve. We are excited to work with each of the 29 individuals as they move forward with their lives.
Q. JEVS’ disability services and supports have expanded into New Jersey! Can you tell us about the work to launch a supported independent living community for young adults with disabilities?
A. A year ago, we met the parent of a young girl with disabilities who had learned of our Philadelphia Independence Network (PIN) program in Narberth, Pa. He had connections with 300 families in New Jersey and was interested in starting a program similar to PIN in New Jersey. We decided that Collingswood, NJ, would be the best location to replicate the Independence Network model program because it’s very community-oriented and there are a lot of places for the young adults to live within walking distance of each other. The Collingswood mayor (see his interview about the new program on Comcast Newsmakers), town officials, employers and residents have been very welcoming, and we look forward to becoming active members of the community. We are in the process of accepting applications and hope to have between 6-10 young adults move into the town within the next few months. The Independence Network program will help young adults with disabilities to live independently and develop a network of support with the help of JEVS staff.
We’ve also applied to the New Jersey Department of Developmental Disabilities to provide community-based supports and employment services to people who live in Atlantic, Camden and Burlington Counties. We can support people in both the Independence Network and people who live in their own homes.
Q. Our Community Integrated Recovery Center (CIRC) has added prolonged exposure therapy to its services. What is prolonged exposure therapy and how does it help our clients with mental illness?
A. The CIRC is our psychiatric rehabilitation program. After receiving our outpatient license this past July as an offshoot of the CIRC, we started our outpatient clinic and applied with the city to receive training for prolonged exposure therapy, which focuses on helping someone overcome trauma. Individuals can experience trauma in many different ways including a car accident, a fall or a difficult home life. This evidence-based practice allows us to treat people in addition to those with serious mental illness.
Q. You have been a part of the JEVS family for many years. Can you talk about how JEVS Community Living and Home Supports programs and services have evolved over the years?
A. When I first came to JEVS, Community Living and Home Supports was basically only group homes. Since then, we’ve adapted our offerings to include Lifesharing, In-Home Supports, Community Collaborative, and Independence Network. These programs help people–representing a wide range of disabilities–to become more involved in their communities and support them to increase their overall independence. We look at someone’s whole life to see what interests a person has and where the focus needs to be, whether it’s finding or keeping employment, learning to use public resources, or participating in community activities. We have also made many infrastructure improvements to expand our offerings and the quality of supports we deliver. Growth in the number of people we serve and the type and quality of service we offer are the positive changes that I have seen JEVS make during my time here.
Q. In your role at JEVS, you have had the opportunity to meet and work with many inspiring individuals. Can you share a favorite memory you have of working with a JEVS client?
A. Because I’ve been here for 27 years, not only have I grown up and raised my own family, but I saw a lot of the individuals we support grow up and grow older. I’ve seen some of them really learn new skills and grow or be able to move into a new home. I have shared some life experiences with them as they have gone through changes with their own families. They are an extended family to me. Since we also have a lot of employees with longevity, they have brought stability to the individuals. I hope we have been able to provide meaning through that stability.