I see the tree in front of O&A every morning and I notice it’s beginning to bud despite the foot of snow and ice surrounding it. That image of change applies to what’s happening at Options & Advocacy. We are in a wonderful place of expansion with our newly renamed Autism Resource Center. We have purchased the space next door which has been vacant since this building was built sixteen years ago. We are going to put the Autism Resource Center in that space and re-do our front entrance to make to truly accessible and functional for clients and families. We will have some much-needed office space, a sensory room, a family bathroom and space that we can use for our support groups and other meetings. We are very excited about this project as that department continues to grow and serve the growing needs of children and adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Our other exciting news is that we have a new program – the HUG (Helping Us Grow) program which is prevention initiative program funded by the Illinois State Board of Education. This great new program will enable us to provide in-home weekly or bi-weekly visits to support child development, family wellness, and positive parent-child interactions. This is for families with children under age three and pregnant women who are experiencing significant life stressors. Referrals can be made by calling our office at 815/477-4720 ext. 238.
With these wonderful new developments comes another that we’re experiencing. The State of Illinois, Department of Human Service/Division on Developmental Disabilities has made significant changes to the Independent Service Coordination system. There have for many years been 17 agencies across the state that have provided Service Coordination services. Options & Advocacy has been one of those agencies. These service coordination activities for children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities include advocating on behalf of people who live in group homes in county as well as for families who receive Home Based Services. It is enrolling and updating the PUNS. It is community service coordination which provides educational advocacy as well as educating families and individuals about service and support options available to them. It is applying for funding for those who qualify for crisis funding from the state. These have always been foundational programs for us and ones that we have been very proud to provide to McHenry County since 1994. As of July 1, there will be 8 agencies that will cover the state. We are now part of Region A which begins in McHenry County and goes across the state to the western border at the Mississippi River. There was a bidding process and our region has been awarded to Service Inc out of Joliet. There has been and continues to be advocacy around these decisions. Our existing staff members in this program are all applying for positions with Service Inc. The letter from the State of Illinois regarding this change is on our website. Many of you will soon receive it by mail.
Options & Advocacy will continue to exist with the Child & Family Connections program, the Autism Resource Center, the Hug Program, Sibshops and the other related supports that we offer. We are resilient like you – the amazing families and people that we support. We will carry on and do our best just as you do each and every day.