Community Services Programs Help Individuals Succeed

Community Services Programs Help Individuals Succeed

by Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Source Editor

A Great Overview from The Lancaster Source

The Lancaster Source / Metro  [ View Original Article ]
Tuesday February 5, 2013 | By:Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | News

LANCASTER- Life is hard enough for people with developmental disabilities and their families and while people who have developmental disabilities face a more challenging future than most, they still can enjoy a full and active life. This is where Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled steps into the picture.

In 1989, CEO and Founder Mark R. Foley recognized there were gaps in services for people with developmental disabilities and wanted to offer programs that were tailored to the needs of an individual living out in the community to fill in those gaps.

Today, the non-profit organization serves on average 1,400 individuals in Erie and Niagara counties, who utilize one program or multiple programs offered through Community Services, said Kari Heigl, director of funding and development for Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled.

Heigl explained that everybody they serve has to be eligible for services through the Office of People with Developmentally Disabilities (OPWDD) and as part of their criteria an individual will have one of the six major developmental disabilities which are cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, seizure disorder, autism, neurological impairment, and familial dysatonomia. Also, OPWDD eligibility requires an individual to show prior to age 22 proof of disability such as school records or school psychological reports with IQ.

“We offer a wide range and a lot of unique services to children, adults, and seniors, anywhere, and at any age,” said Heigl. “We have 37 different residential settings, and other agencies do also, and several independent housing complexes, but we also have the only domestic violence shelter at least on the east coast that serves people with developmental disabilities and in some cases their family.”

Some of the programs individuals can receive include working with a service coordinator to help develop goals, address needs, and explore options through Person Centered Planning. Also, for the soon-to-be parent who may need assistance in their role as mom or dad is offered.

In addition, several site based day programs are offered to help improve an individual’s independent living skills including transitional programs for students, employment preparation, and programs for seniors and self-advocacy services.

A popular program called Respite Care provides parents a safe and positive place for their child to go for a short period of time so parents can take a little break. There are after school programs offered, Saturday programs, and overnight Respite, but an individual must be 18 or older to stay overnight.

“The general public really isn’t that familiar with all the wonderful programs we have,” commented Heigl.

Community Services has Western New York’s only DD Offender program to help individuals with developmental disabilities navigate the various stages of the criminal justice system. The program is recognized by the NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives as an alternative to incarceration program.

“If they come into issues with the law it is very difficult for them to understand all the paperwork handed to them or what the court is telling them they are mandated to do,” said Heigl. “So, we have a court liaison that works directly with the probation department to help them get through the criminal justice system,” which is funded through a grant.

Hiegl added they are constantly adding programs based on people’s needs and some of the focus this year will be placed on housing needs.

“A lot of people we serve live alone in the community and the housing options aren’t great,” said Heigl. “They get taken advantage of by landlords or they live in poor conditions. So, our next target area is to develop more independent housing where we are purchasing apartments or duplexes for safe and affordable housing.”

Furthermore, a foundation called The Community Services Support Foundation was recently created in 2010 to help secure financial resources to support organizations, activities, and individuals that provide and improve services for individuals with developmental disabilities in Western New York. The foundation accepts and administers gifts, donations, bequests, and grants on behalf of Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled.

“I think one of the things I love about Community Services, and I have been here 10 years, but I have worked at almost six agencies in this field in Western New York, is we really look at the individual as to what they need and how to we can meet those needs,” remarked Heigl.

For more information about Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled visit or call 883-8888.