I/DD Topics & Trends with Chip Huggins

Chip Huggins, Providing Resources & Employment Opportunities to I/DD Individuals

Tell us more about Hope Services

Chip: We are celebrating our 70th year, this year, in 2022. We provide a variety of programs for people with disabilities of all ages. We currently serve about 3,600 individuals. We have clients over 8 Bay Area counties. Our mission is to promote a common understanding that the world is a better place with people with disabilities fully integrated and accepted in all aspects of our culture and community. Our primary goal in all that we do is to improve the quality of life for the individuals we serve. Our 8 indicators of this are personal development, self-determination, interpersonal relations, social inclusion, rights, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and eternal well-being. We have a dedicated staff that develops personalized plans for each of our clients to be successful. Hope Services, as I mentioned, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. We were founded in 1952 by a group of concerned parents who chartered a school dedicated to quality education and resources for their children. We have since become a well-established striving organization with a broad spectrum of valuable services. Some of the programs that Hope Services has are programs serving clients at all stages of life. Our Home-Start program provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers. The program works with children who have or are at risk of having a developmental delay. To help them reach their full potential, we support families building new skills to aid their children’s development. We offer day programs like EMCC which is an integrated program to our clients and that is employment, media, community, and connections. This program provides media technology training, employment, support, and community-based activities. Our director who designed and developed this program, Cathy Bouchard, is with us tonight I believe. Our supportive employment program is typically focused on securing sustainable employment opportunities for our clients. The program offers comprehensive services including, skill development, internships, job placement, and on-the-job coaching. We also provide independent supportive living services to support individuals or adults living in their own homes with personalized care depending on their choice or need. Our behavioral health program is one of our largest and served 2,000 people last year by providing counseling, case management, and psychiatric services to those qualifying for mental health diagnosis and I/DD disability. Lastly, we offer a variety of opportunities to seniors to stay active and to experience an array of retirement alternatives. We have senior programs in San Jose and Aptos which provide participants the opportunity to interact, socialize, and enjoy recreational activities with their communities on-site. Of course, employment services obtaining real work or real pay is the most desired outcome for individuals with disabilities. Hope Services offers a variety of options for our clients in different places on their employment journey. Our EMCC program assists with career development, job clubs, job site visits, and provides paid work opportunities. They also provide alternatives to typical employment that still empower individuals to use their skills and passions. A set program of EMCC is Hope Studio, a craft center where clients have learned the skills of weaving looms to create scarves, table runners, tote bags, and more. They are able to sell these items for a profit at craft barriers. Our community employment program supports participants in achieving their career goals by helping them place them in a job and providing personalized support. Project Search is another employment-based program that is a unique business-led one-year internship that takes place entirely at the host business site. Clients experience total workplace immersion with the accommodations of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job skills training with the end goal being integrative employment for graduates. We have Project Search at the Kaiser hospital in San Jose and Stanford Hospital in Stanford. 

In the employment area, I know the statistics are pretty dismal in terms of the high unemployment rate among this population. How would I go about getting started? How do I know what program is right for me?

Chip: The department of rehab will do an assessment and refer the individual to Hope Services or another service provider. Over a period of time, 6-9 months after the funding is out, the Regional Center will pick it up and will continue funding the program for the individual.

How about some examples of success stories? I would love to hear about how people have managed to use those resources and get a great results.

Chip: We have many great examples of that, Dana. And we will go over a couple of them a little bit later in the slide deck. We had this individual here who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago but he had a great job at Whole Foods. He had a job coach and was very integrated into working there and actually worked himself up to a cashier. So started as a bagger and then learned all the different jobs around being a cashier and then eventually became head cashier so very proud of that! We work with different corporations to engage with them and to work with our clients to make sure that their positions in these corporations are good fits for them, our individuals, our clients. It’s a win-win and we work with both the client and the company that they’re working for.

So what are the kinds of corporations that engage in this process?

Chip: We have a group at J Lohr Winery. They engage with a group of our clients and I think there are 7 there. And then, there are some long-term clients over 20 years and so the relationship has been terrific. There’s a bike company that we work with, who is a group there and you’ll read more about Dominic a little bit later. He’s been there for 25 years, he’s 70 years old and loves his job and I think it’s really important to call out the importance of having an employment for our clients and what it means to them to come home and say you know “I had a great day at work. I’m worth something. I’m included in this society.” I have a really kind of a fun story. I have been blessed to be able to work in different areas. I started working in chocolate and one of my last jobs in chocolate was running the Chances with Chocolate company. It was owned by the California Autism Foundation in Oakland and we would have our clients come in and work at the chocolate company. They would go home with a smile on their face with some money in their pocket and a bag of chocolate. They would tell their friends, and they would be so proud and it meant so much to them and meant so much to us as an organization to provide that. Anyways, that experience for me brought a couple things together which was chocolate and giving back, right. That is what social enterprises are all about. 

What are other examples of successful placements?

Chip: We have so many we can talk about. We have placements in Google, Microsoft, and at Facebook, throughout the valley. Obviously, some of those have been impacted by Covid because people are working at home so the need to have cafeterias open now is a little bit less. But I think those people are being placed in different positions like retail is still strong and we are hiring clients in our thrift stores. We have 3 thrift stores, we have both independent and also EMCC groups coming in to work the thrift stores. In fact, our assistant manager at the Willow Glen store is a client and he came from the Project Search program, he worked at Kaiser. He was trying to find what job would really turn him on and drove him. He tried different things and then he said “Well I want to be a medical assistant. I want to work in a medical office.” He wasn’t sure about that and so he came to the thrift store because we said,” You’re so great with people. You love to interact and you’re really good at it. Come to the thrift store to interact with people and all of our customers.” He’s done a great job. This guy got promoted over the last couple of years.

 How did Covid impact your [thrift store] operations?

Chip: We had to shut down during certain periods of time. We’ve had a lot of restrictions like others have had in retail. You know sometimes we’ve had to shut the store down for several days and so on. But, we had a great year this past year and continue to get great donations for those of you bringing donations. Thank you so much and we continue to thrive.

This is relatively new for Hope Services, offering mental health services. How has that happened? You have also expanded in San Mateo County.

Chip: We are going to be opening a Counseling Center there in San Mateo in September. We actually just had a press conference with Congresswoman Jackie Speier last Monday to receive a large check to help fund that. There’s a lot of need in San Mateo County that’s not being met and so we’re responding to that. We have a Half Moon Bay office already but that’s mainly focused on our EMCC programs and our DDI but we’ve been around 22 years providing mental health services to our clients. It’s very unique because it takes specialized training for clinicians to recognize how the DDI clients respond to different therapies versus a mental health condition and so that training is critical and it doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of experience and so we’re one of the few providers in Northern California that does that dual diagnosis.

Have you seen the uptick for that kind of need of service? We hear a lot about how Covid and being locked down has negatively impacted a lot of folks. What have you seen?

Chip: It definitely has. In 2019, this is before covid. Our contract with the county has doubled in size and so it is now 12 million in revenue. There’s a waitlist and we’re trying to respond to that waitlist by adding more clinicians. There’s a huge demand because of the anxiety around covid about many things that are happening in our world today, wars, recession, homelessness and all that impacts everyone and especially our clients. So we’ve increased that substantially and so hoping to respond to the need and we can continue to grow a number of programs and offices to meet that need.

What is the process if I thought I needed that kind of service? How would I go about finding out if it’s right for me?

Chip: You could go to the Regional Center and they could give you a referral or you can go through the county. Either way to get to us. If you reach out to us on our website www.hopeservices.org there’s a place for the information there you can resource.

What does Hope Services hope that individuals take away from your programs?

Chip: I think the takeaway is that it’s a family atmosphere. We have so many staff members that have been here for so long. Cathy Bouchard is on tonight and she’s been here for over 45 years. She’s semi-retired but still very much dedicated to our programs. We have other staff that have been here over 25, 30, 35 years and I think that’s a reflection of the culture that we have. We’re all family and our clients are a part of that family and so when there’s something going wrong we are part of that. What’s going on? We want to get it fixed. So I think we saw that during Covid. Actually, the first several months when families needed groceries, we took care of it. When a family needs different things and needs to be taken to a medical appointment, whatever it might be we respond. Our staff stepped up and responded to those needs of our clients and so I think that’s the number one thing that they would take away. 

How else have you seen the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities change when they are given the opportunity to work?

Chip: I think the whole feeling and presentation of the individual. If you walk into our headquarters at Las Colinas and talk to one of our wonderful outstanding receptionists, they glow because they love their work. They love meeting people everyday and telling their stories. They’re a lot about what we do and so I think that’s a great example of what we do every day. Covid-19 really impacted them, like a lot more than anyone else because they couldn’t come to work. They couldn’t come to work and interface with their friends, with the other staff, with the leadership, and other clients so the interpersonal interaction is so critical for all of us but especially our clients.

Are there any memorable moments that your clients have shared with you about the opportunities that Hope Services has provided them with?

Chip: I think Ramakrishna. I mean I go to the stores a lot because I over see them. Krishna pulled me aside a couple months ago when I was visiting a Willow Glenn Store and he thanked me. I said “Why are you thanking me? You did the all hard work.” And he says, “I love my work. I dream about coming to work every day.” Who dreams about coming to work every day? Well, he does and it’s so important to his life and his well-being. Hopefully, he’s an employee for life. He is a huge ambassador for us and he loves what he does and so I think that tells part of our story right there.

What programs are available specifically for different age groups at Hope Services?

Chip: So I mentioned the Home Start program and that’s early age from 0 to 5. Mental Health Services starts at around 5 until 85 so the full spectrum. Project Search is 18 and over. So again that is interns going into hospitals or companies to figure out what they like to do. The EMCC are for age groups 18 and over. Community employment starts at 18 and over. Community Living is 18 and over. Other day programs are 18 and over usually. Senior Services are 45 and over. 

What’s most important about people with developmental disabilities learning skills at work and why is that so important for them?

Chip: I think the interaction is huge for them. In regards to being able to interact with different types of people and getting respect as they deserve. We talk about inclusion in the beginning and having them included in the community and make them feel they’re not outcasts because they’re not, they’re all like us. Everyone’s the same. It’s all about inclusion and getting them integrated so they can go to work every day and feel appreciated and loved like everyone else. 

How have job opportunities improved the behaviors of people with I/DD?

Chip: That’s a great question because some of our clients have slight behavioral concerns or issues and those can be helped with the interaction and being in the community working with the public. Isolation does some terrible things to all of us, especially our clients and I think the interaction and being in the public and included as everyone else helps deal with that issue in particular. With our behavioral health division, those co-occurring services, we can address some of those needs too. Sometimes people are just misdiagnosed and we can try to correct those misdiagnoses. I think being in the community and having a relationship that is meaningful to that individual, and that is really quite critical, making sure that the fit is good for them and that the employers are happy. Nothing better than having a happy employer say, “Well done. Job well done and thank you for your efforts in your hard work.”

You mentioned a little bit earlier about the different corporations that you partner with to provide employment. How do you find those corporations and how would someone go about working with you as a corporation to provide employment?

Chip: We have a job developer that goes out and starts the communication. And that job developer creates that first relationship and then we give those companies examples of success stories we talked about tonight. Especially, we can talk about that long-term relationship that we’ve established and so it’s a win-win. And Mike loves to step forward and say Hope Services did such a terrific job with working with us and nothing better than having those types of statements from current employers. J Lohr just did a video for us about the long-term relationship that we’ve had with them and the wonderful clients that we’ve had there working for so long and so those things are really important in regards to working and developing new relationships.

You also briefly touched on group placement rather than individual placement. Could you talk a little bit more about the group placements offered for employment?

Chip: So part of the process of the assessment of the job itself is that we talk to employers, talk to companies. We do the assessment of what’s required and you know is it an individual placement? Can one person do it with a job coach? Or is it a group of related types of employee, employment relationships? So that happens at early stages and then the job developer comes up with the program basically and then presents it to the employer. The next step would be finding individuals that fit that criteria and that would be a win-win for both the employer and also our clients. And once it starts then we provide support services to a job coach.

How would we go about getting employment opportunities for LSA residents?

Chip: Same process, you can go through the Department of Rehabilitation and usually they like to be the starting point and then eventually you go to the Regional Center.

Dana, can you please talk about how we employ I/DD individuals?

Dana: Well I guess a couple of things. We have created a number of jobs over the years and internally to LSA that are filled by residents. You know Ronnie is our poster boy. He gets what we call a community inclusion coach and on weekends he goes over and works at our Rivermark homes and goes out into the community with one or two of the residents to do a specific thing in the community. He loves that job. He looks forward to it and it’s for all the reasons that Chip mentions, he felt valued. We could have hired somebody for that job but we felt it was a priority to create those kinds of jobs wherever we could. We’ve also had administrative Staff in Rivermark for many of the years. Currently, the woman who is doing that got to a point where she felt like she was ready to retire and so we don’t have anybody there now. Our community inclusion program is essentially an Employment Program because it tackles voluntary employment. In groups of 3, typically go out and work at another nonprofit doing tasks that are meaningful to them. And kind of along the lines of what Chip said, we certainly realize that there’s an added value when working with a group and whether it’s your own work in an office or your work at another site, the fact that you can be part of the team adds a whole other layer of satisfaction. Yeah, we’re always looking out for for an opportunity to create a job that could be filled from someone from our community and I’m totally grateful to all that helped us to create those kinds of jobs and to allow people to learn the skills that they need to perform them, to essentially get themselves into a place where they can that kind of satisfaction out of going to work every day. Those stories were of course great and it was great to hear anyone who is feeling valued and enjoys their work is certainly a blessing.

Could you both touch on what the value is in having community support for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability?

Dana: I guess I kind of come at it from being a dad of someone with intellectual disability. So I kind of come at it from that angle, it is the right thing to do to include all in our community. But I think if I if I looked at it strictly from a value standpoint, to those in the community they will get value from getting and being involved with others and I think it’s all it’s all about getting out of your own lane and you never know what you’re going to find out there and how it will make your life better as well as you know possibly the likes of someone else. I just think it’s something that is really really important and that people experience value from doing it. I know it’s easy in these times to just stay in your lane but there’s value out there. 

Chip: Most definitely. I think getting people educated is a big part of what we do. We have a wonderful director of marketing and marketing team that gets the word out that really tells our stories of the impact of our clients and the impact of our work. The stories are such that you have to wake up and realize these people are like us. They’re all the same, we’re all the same and they need to be included in what we do day in and day out because they’re doing the work. They’re going to work, they’re doing retail, they are doing a lot of different jobs that everyone else is doing so we’ve got to include them and it just takes time. Part of it is the unfortunate stigma around people with disabilities whether it’s mental health where it’s a DDI. Whatever it might be. The stigma is terrible but it is getting better. I think it’s getting better, especially in the mental health area. I’ve had my family live with the stigma for a long long time. It’s something where you want people who are prominent to acknowledge it, to say you know that it’s there but also everyone can get help. Everyone should get help that needs it and get rid of the stigma. You know we’re all the same. My grandfather committed suicide at a very young age and my family’s had to live with that stigma and we talked about it because you don’t normalize it, people going to live with that stigma and not get the services they need. 

You mentioned earlier that someone became a bagger and eventually worked themselves up to a cashier. How often do you see that success and are there any success stories that are similar to that that you would like to share?

Chip: Well I think that there are many. I mentioned our thrift store supervisor there and also the fellow, Patrick, who got promoted at Whole Foods.  Whole Foods is a remarkable store and company and they recognized the value in the need and of our clients. There’s many more and I could create a list for you if you’re interested but I would go to our website and download some of the stories that we’ve had. The marketing team has a remarkable job on getting any stories out there and there’s so many. I’m so proud and so honored to be associated with being the CEO of this organization. We’re celebrating their 70th year and I’ve only been there for 4 years. All this work that’s been done before me and I’m very blessed and I hustle to work every day Dana so as you probably do too.

What can people in the audience do to help Hope Services? How can they get in touch with you and your team if they have follow up questions?

Chip: Reach out to me to my email address: chuggins@hopeservices.org. You can send me a note. We just had our fourth annual concert with Hope on July 23rd. Part of that program is talking about stigmas. Stigmas around mental health, Stigmas about disabilities and we said we would get artists to not only play but also talk about how they work to overcome their stigmas. And so that’s one thing and if you want to help out, go to the thrift store. You can buy something or if you want to volunteer by all means volunteer in Willow Glen. Ask for Sean Bailey. Sean Bailey is the manager there and would be happy to show you around and see how we can help you. 

How are individuals trained once they find that employment opportunity? Is there training provided by Hoper Services or are they just trained by the employer?

Chip: Depending on the assessment of the individual we may provide a job coach to assist their training and support them for the first several weeks until they feel that they have the job pinned down and can do the job. That’s basically it. So it’s an employer and job coach combination. 

What is your quick-take on how we can break the stigma against those with mental health illnesses and developmental disabilities?

Chip: It’s getting prominent for people to talk about it. I asked Warren to do it. His family has mental health conditions and he probably publicly came out in 2011 and talked about it and with people like that, you normalize it. So you know it’s not so bad and it’s okay to get help. I think that’s critical and we did our in concert with Hope series around that, talking openly discussing and normalizing, breaking down that stigma barrier. Music is obviously therapeutic, we all know that. We had Tower of Power play for us on July 23rd to 1,200 people at Villa Montalvo and it was a great event. Anyways, something I very much think is important to our population is music.