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Can Genesis work activity center survive state's new mental health reform?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The last few months have been challenging as Genesis Development prepares to adapt to changes in the mental health system.

"It has affected us and made some differences," Genesis Development Executive Director Terry Johnson told the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors during an Oct. 2 meeting. "My problem is that its process does not help our folks."

Passed by the state legislature earlier this spring, Iowa's $1.3 billion in mental health services will be undergoing major changes in the next five years. County-by-county systems will be replaced by regions in 2014, who will provide a streamlined set of core services.

Work services for the intellectually or physically disabled are not included in core services, and can only be implemented after regions provide all mandated services first.

"The goal is to move people through the (work services) system as quickly as possible, but when they take away work centers, we have lost the tools to teach skills," Johnson said. "There are other things going on at work centers other than paychecks."

Individuals employed through Genesis Work Services learn a myriad of skills: attendance, promptness, safety, respect for property, appropriate personal hygiene, following directions, honesty, accepting correction, requesting assistance and working with others.

On-site employment opportunities include Genesis Storm Lake's recycling and printing centers.

Without a work center, teaching skills will be a struggle.

"If they take away that tool, we have to come up with something else, otherwise it won't be taught," Johnson explained. "But, if nothing else, we adapt and work towards vocation."

According to Sandy Pingel, Storm Lake Site Director, more individuals served by Genesis have joined enclave teams, working at Jack Link's Beef Jerky in Laurens or performing janitorial tasks at various businesses.

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