The Arcadia Institute Community Brokers have been working with people with disabilities for over a year now. We have started to see some fruits of their efforts that if we did not pay attention we might miss. One outcome is that often people do not need as much support from paid agency professionals to be successful in the community. Calculating just what this means for increasing the ability of the community to support people with disabilities and decreasing costs to the community is difficult, but here are some examples (names changed): Bill now has a community person, Chris, in his life who helped him move, helped him get his belonging from a storage unit, and has invited him to spend time with his family. Chris also stops in occasionally to see how Bill is doing. Bill and Chris benefit from their relationship. Another subtle benefit for the community is that when Chris supports Bill, paid Community Brokers and Community Mental Health Supports Coordinators are not necessary; thus, it saves the community some financial resources.
Ginger added a community activity to her life by becoming the Secretary of an Advisory Group. When she first started going to the meetings she depended on paid Community Living Support people, Supports Coordinator or Community Broker for transportation. A member of the Advisory Group, Linda, offered to help Ginger by meeting her at her apartment and riding the bus with her. This has added to the relationship between Ginger and Linda, but it also saves the community money because paid staff time is not necessary.
Tony now works at a small manufacturing company. When he got this job, the company took the responsibility for training him and supporting him, knowing that it may take a bit longer for Tony to learn. Thus. Tony did not need to have a paid supportive employment agency provide job coaching. Co-workers have also made sure that Tony is included in company social activities so he has gained new relationships.
Eva was in a restaurant with a friend who knew the owner, Bob. When Bob stopped by the table to say “hello,” Eva asked if she could apply for a job. Bob agreed and hired Eva. The Community Broker met Eva the first few times she worked to make sure that she got on and off the bus on time, but Bob never asked that the Community Broker provide ongoing support. The restaurant manager and other employees support Eva as she learned the job. Eva is part of the team. This is another example of the community taking responsibility so that paid services are not necessary.
In each of these stories, the person with disabilities developed stronger community relationships. People from the community have experience that they have the flexibility and ingenuity to support people with disabilities. Also, there is a very practical cost savings benefit for everyone.