NDS may be ‘best kept secret’

One minute the room is quiet. Suddenly the door opens and the aroma of fried chicken and the sounds of laughter and happy conversation enter the room.

It is supper time with consumers of Northview Developmental Services, Inc., in the Oakwood Apartments on Ash Street in Hillsboro.

“I like Elvis.”

“It was hot at work today.”

“I love the Trojans.”

“Well, I love the Jayhawks.”

“I went to Kansas City yesterday and to the doctor, shopping and out to eat.”

The voices come at once. All 15 of them. Everyone smiles and seems happy to be with each other. And not just the apartment dwellers. Staff smiled and laughed, too.

According to Stan Zienkewicz, executive director of Northview, “It’s the best kept secret in two counties.”

NDS is the state and county appointed provider of community services to developmentally disabled children and adults for Harvey and Marion counties.

Among the services provided are job searches, job coaching, and subcontract work training to developmentally disabled adults in the two counties. Some 134 children, women and men receive service coordination from NDS. About 30 of those individuals have a residence that connects to Marion County.

Fifty-five people are supported by NDS employment services, 25 work in training and 30 in job placement. The NDS consumer payroll amounts to about $52,000 yearly.

Zienkewicz took over his position in January, replacing Ned Lakin who had been with NDS for 25 years.

“It will take some adjustment,” Zienkewicz said. “I haven’t been with Northview very long, but I have had 25 years of experience in the field.”

Zienkewicz said NDS seeks a wholistic approach.

“The responsibility is not just the federal, or the state, or the local…. It is a team effort between the government and the private sector.”

The new president is excited about new business prospects and opportunities for consumer placements.

“It can be a win-win situation,” he said. “Business leaders have always felt it was the right thing to do.”

He said it had been a positive experience for people who supported their work.

“They felt good about being a part of it,” he said.

And it gives the consumers a sense of pride and accomplishment. They are able to earn their own spending money and begin to learn what it means to give up one thing to purchase another.

NDS has grown to be a large organization with 228 full- and part- time staff. That translates into an annual payroll of more than $3.1 million.

Through his years of experience, Zienkewicz has seen many changes.

“In the ’50s and ’60s, the disabled were often placed in state facilities,” he said.

The 1970 and 1980s brought a period of transition. In 1994 the Developmentally Disabled Reform Act changed everything, Zienkewicz said. Facilities such as Norton and Winfield have closed down as a result of the legislations, he said. Basically the disabled have been taken out of institutions, and, with support, now are allowed to live as members of communities.

“We are here to help them find and develop the things they can do, not to focus on what they can’t do,” Zienkewicz said.

Northview’s services provide the appropriate supports to allow its consumers to be a viable part of the community in which they live.

“The programs we have,” said Zienkewicz, “are very individualized. Each person has a plan that is set up by a group of professionals at least once a year-and more often, if it is needed.”

Elizabeth Schmidt is the NDS services coordinator.

“She is the liaison the school contacts and she gets the ball rolling,” Zienkewicz said.

After the initial contact, Schmidt will assess the needs to see if the child is eligible for Northview’s services.

Support services for children sometimes includes in-home support to help parents and caregivers.

“It is very individualized,” Zienkewicz said. “The care of the child is a team effort with shared responsibilities between Northview and the families.”

He said plans include developing a transition program to help children move from the school years to living in the community away from home.

Adults have daytime service, which is either a vocational or activity program.

The NDS activity program offers some type of meaningful, purposeful day activities that are frequently offered at facilities such as recreation centers.

Part of the vocation program takes place in the Northview Industries at Newton, which accepts contracting work for the consumers.

Businesses are also contacted for positions that might meet with the Northview consumers’ qualifications.

Bev Plett, residential team manager for Hillsboro, said several Hillsboro consumers have been employed by Dillons.

Hillsboro consumers and about 70 other consumers in the two counties are transported from home to their work or day activity every day.

Several residential services are also offered for adult consumers.

Cluster apartments, such as the group in Hillsboro, are for people who are able to live independently with little extra support.

Staff is not required to stay on the premises 24 hours a day. But Hillsboro is fortunate to have two staff members who live in the complex.

Homes are available for individuals who need supervision and support. Three to six consumers may live in a home, with support staff in the home 24 hours a day.

Zienkewicz is pleased that plans are under way to build four three-bedroom homes in Harvey County with federal grant money.

He said during the next several months a feasibility and needs study will be conducted in Harvey and Marion counties to determine long-terms needs.

“We are trying to look at the future from all aspects,” Zienkewicz said. “This is the service delivery model that will happen. We are required by the government to do this.”

He said NDS is redefining itself as it continues to grow to meet the growing demands. The number of consumers has grown 33 percent in the past five years.

“We will be having interviews with business leaders in the communities and doing research to study potential growth programs.

“We want to let the community know what we are doing,” he said. “We are part of the community. Like I said before: We’re the best kept secret in two counties.”

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