Web Content Viewer


Director Davis talks with Mary Thompson-Hufford, CEO of Fuse Network, Melissa Skaggs, Chief Administrative Officer of ARC Industries, and Amber Cross, SSA Director of the Belmont Harrison and Noble Alliance about the OhioISP. 


Fri, 9/10 2:59PM • 27:46 


assessment, people, plan, workgroup, providers, DSPs, individual, outcome, county board, support, training, Ohio department, system, journey, important, leaping, person, developmental disabilities, boards, ISP 


Amber Cross, Mary Thompson-Hufford, Melissa Skaggs, Director Jeff Davis, Multiple Speakers 



You're listening to the official podcast of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, with your host Director Jeff Davis. 


Director Jeff Davis  00:12 

Hi, this is Jeff Davis, Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and I am very pleased today to have some very special guests. And we'll start with Mary Thompson-Hufford, who is the CEO of The Fuse Network, which is Coshocton, Licking, and Muskingum Counties. We are so very glad to have you with us. And Melissa Skaggs, who is the Chief Administrative Officer of ARC Industries here in Franklin County, and Amber Cross, who is the SSA Director of the Belmont Harrison and Noble Alliance, which is the county boards of those three counties. So we are so glad you're all here. The topic today is very special in near and dear to me, obviously and it's the OhioISP, and our effort to create and implement a single assessment and single plan format. So ladies, how appreciative am I to have you here. So why don't we chat about OhioISP, if your game and I'll look right across at Amber and maybe just start with a simple question is, why do you think a single assessment, single plan will benefit our Ohio system? 


Amber Cross  01:23 

Sure, I think there's many benefits. I think a key one for myself and for our alliance is the consistency and uniformity that the plan will allow for everyone, not just the people we support and their families, but especially providers, many of our providers, we even mentioned that here just a minute ago, work across multiple counties and I think that it'll allow a lot of efficiency for that. But then overall, all of us getting together on the workgroup, I think really brought a lot of great ideas that we currently use, and that we hope for that will allow us to really capture that important too, and important for stuff for people. So that we'll have one great plan that's going to work for everyone and will be easy to look through. Because providers are looking at that stuff on a daily basis and families and the people we support will get to read great things about themselves. 


Melissa Skaggs  02:13 

I think it's one of the most exciting things that has happened in this industry. In the 35 years, I've been a part of it. I think for the providers and the individuals that we serve, the ability to have a plan, that we can train our staff on. And that plan would be something that one individual can can travel with and be portable with. But also staff, as we're training staff, the ability to train staff and all staff are going to know how to read the same plan. I think that's significant. The other thing that I think is exciting about this plan, the plan helps us know as providers how to celebrate outcomes. I don't think we've ever talked about that before and I think that's a really significant change in the plan. And how we can look at that. And as providers know, when this person reaches this milestone, how the person wants to celebrate it, I think that's exciting. 


Director Jeff Davis  03:02 

Thank you. Mary. 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  03:04 

I'm excited by having a consistent assessment and consistent plan across our state, we're going to be able to leverage the knowledge and the expertise. So we're not focused on what's going to go where but actually focused on the content. I think so often, we've been distracted by formats and processes for different county boards. And so as a provider, we don't get to leverage that expertise from each county board that we support, because each county board has always had a different process or a different system or a different way to implement. And now we can stop thinking about formats and we can start really focusing on people and training our team to work collaboratively with the county board, and the other providers that are sitting across the table. So the focus can truly be on the person, the outcome, and the experiences that the person needs to have, to have the life that they want. That's so exciting to me that we can focus on people and stop focusing on paper. 


Director Jeff Davis  04:10 

I appreciate that so very much. So the three of you committed so much of your time to the workgroup and to those that don't know, we did put a workgroup together, it started back in calendar 2019. As we set upon this journey, with the intent of getting as much input from as many different aspects, all aspects, we hope in some respects of our system, but you've committed though, you know, this intervening time. So give me a sense of and you have to have some passion for it. You've just explained a little bit about that. But take us a little bit through the journey of the committee itself or the workgroup. 


Amber Cross  04:45 

I think for myself, just as you said, it really was a lot of different professional areas, people that have knowledge, people that have been in the field for many, many years, people that maybe are new to the field, and you just have all areas, county boards provider, self-advocates, there's just family members. And I just think having all of that information, we kind of did that at our own county board a few years back when we developed our own plan and got that kind of a group together because I think it's not just, we shouldn't be so siloed, just county boards, just providers like each of us working individually, we really do need to come together. And I think this ISP process is a great example of how everyone coming together, that you can really get a great product. And so I think that with having a great ISP that really captures I think just as everyone touched on the people and what is you know, what they're looking to get out of life, that I hope that that just kind of extends over to the relationship that we all have as we work together to gather that information. So I think it's just bigger and better things to come. 


Melissa Skaggs  05:45 

I think as we came together as a group, we always had one central focus and that was for the individuals that are receiving the services. And while currently things may be done in different ways across the state, bringing together some of the best ways to do things. And putting again, as Amber said, all of those people in one room didn't always always agree, which was really interesting to kind of see where this was going. But at the end of the day, I feel like I'm very proud of the work that group of people did. And that the end result of this of this OhioISP and how person-centered it is, and how it will help, I think, let individuals grow and be able to see that growth, maybe in a way that they hadn't been able to see in plans that were already in place.  


Director Jeff Davis  06:42 

Yeah, thank you. I'll follow up in a second. Mary, you want to chat a little bit about your participation and journey with the work? 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  06:49 

Yeah, you know, time is the most precious thing that we have and how we choose to spend our time I think is a great reflection on what's important to us as a person. And spending the hours inside the workgroup as well as contributing information outside of each one of those meetings was awe-inspiring to see so many people across the state with the same goal, the same intention, was truly humbling to be part of that. When I think back to all the hours that were spent on each individual question within the discovery assessment, truly amazing, because how often do we just, those are the questions, but this worked group did not at all, just say these are the questions, each question was analyzed and wordsmithed over and over again because there was such a commitment to asking the right questions. So we can really listen to what the individual wants, what the individual needs, and what that needs to look like. And sometimes, as a system, we've not always listened or heard in a way that we can give people what they need and what they want. And this workgroup was really committed to hearing what people want. And so instead of saying, here's your package, here's your options. Let's see where you fit. The workgroup was just truly obsessed, absolutely obsessed on the discovery questions because they want the individual and the people that know that individual best to answer those questions. So it's not about here are your options, but what do you want? How can we help you get it? And that was just humbling to be part of. 


Director Jeff Davis  08:44 

That's a wonderful segue because it does seem like the workgroup, asserted maybe for the first time or reasserted the importance of the assessment. 


Melissa Skaggs  08:52 

Absolutely, because without a good assessment, you're not gonna have a good plan. 


Director Jeff Davis  08:57 

No question about it. So how do you, can you envision as we roll this out? I mean, this takes time. We know that perhaps longer than we had hoped, or, you know, we did lose a year in some respects with a pandemic. But, you know, as we do this, how do we, how do you envision training our system? And let's start on the importance of the assessment, I would argue it truly is reaffirming its importance in ways that perhaps it hasn't been for a while. So how are we going to do that? How do you think? 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  09:31 

You know, something that I'm excited that the department is doing, and I don't know for sure if I can get the right word, but they're doing these regional clusters. And I am so excited about people from the department coming to our area, our communities, and pulling families and providers and county board professionals together and helping us incorporate the assessment and the ISP and doing that training side-by-side. We've not always had variances like that and with the entire state embracing the same assessment and the same system and, and the department coming to us, is really exciting. And I think it's going to create a synergy at the local level. And truly, that's where it's most important, that we have that synergy at a local level. 


Melissa Skaggs  10:20 

Think we spend a lot of time in the workgroup, talking about maybe what training might look like and and how we might do that. And always acknowledging the DSP through this process. And so I think, when I think about training, and what that might look like, in the future, I think, getting our DSPs, to know that they have a really, really important role in this process. And getting them to understand from the very beginning what it is that they can contribute to the assessment process, and to the plan, I think is going to be really paramount in the success of how these plans are written. 


Director Jeff Davis  11:03 

So how do you envision in this current environment we're in, workforce and implementing something new? How do we get the DSP involved? Practically speaking, how do you get your own team to actively participate? 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  11:22 

You know, I think that I can circle back to the same comment about time and time is our most precious gift. And so how, as an organization, as an organizational leader, I choose to use the time within my organization is a direct reflection of what I see is most important. And as a leader within my organization, what's most important to me, is that the DSPs, within our system, the DSPs that are supporting the people, that families and that have trusted us for our services, that's most important to me, because that's the most important piece within our organization. And so for me, yes, absolutely, it's going to be a sacrifice. Is it going to mean that I might need to cover a shift, so a DSP can be in training? Absolutely. But within our organization, we're going to sacrifice so that our DSPs have the training that they need. So they can pick the plan up, they can find the information that they need, and they can support the person in the way the person wants to be supported. So the person can have progress on their outcome and achieve it, who wants to work on the same thing for three or four years and never get it. You or I wouldn't tolerate that and let's not make people that we support tolerate that. And the number one way to change the outcomes is to let our DSPs have the knowledge DSPs are amazing, they're smart. And sometimes, I think as a system, we underestimate them. So as an organizational leader, and as a person that cares about what happens to people with developmental disabilities, we're going to choose to sacrifice within our organization to ensure that every single one of our DSPs get the training that's necessary, so they can pick up the plan, they can read it, they can use. 


Melissa Skaggs  13:06 

I think another thing that we can do when we think about the training is I think this could be side by side learning. So the DSPs can learn alongside of the individuals, it's a great opportunity to put those folks together, and everybody's learning at the same time. And so I think that's one of the ways that ARC will do that, is we'll embrace that. And we'll make that part of you know, here's what the plan looks like. And here's the questions and here's what they mean. And there's something that we can talk about. And, you know, I see us even being able to help individuals to kind of pre-plan and kind of understand before they ever go in maybe some of the questions and things like that, that they might be being asked. And so I think that's a really great training and learning experience to bring that together. 


Director Jeff Davis  13:50 

I appreciate that. Amber, you know, you're in counties that only a few years back created, you know, their own version of the plan, right. So you're in essence going right back at it in a way in a short period of time. So maybe talk about that, from how you envision, you know, implementing it, or sort of the cultural shift or not so much, whatever you wish. 


Amber Cross  14:14 

I sure. I first want to say I couldn't agree more with what was just said by both of the ladies, I think that DSPs are so important. They're the ones who spend the most time with the people that we support and that are getting the services. They are who know the people best they see them through and through, good days bad days helping them in the morning when they come home from work and maybe had a tough shift, or maybe they are celebrating success because they just learned something new at a job. And so they are the people that can provide such valuable information to these plans and just to the services that someone you know, receives. So it's not even just the plan itself, but it's the information that you need to get to that. So it's those assessment questions like we were talking about and so, I think for you know, us at BHN and you know, as you mentioned, we you know, a few years back developed our own and, and I really saw a lot of that in the workgroup that we did here for the statewide ISP. It's those simple things of just taking the time, which has been mentioned here before, communication, being available in that discussion. And so it's more than the plan and gathering the information. The information and the questions through the assessment to get to the plan, its people knowing that you're available, people knowing that you're a phone call way, if something comes up, if you know someone is working on a particular outcome or you know, requires a certain service, and maybe things change in life, they want to know that you're a phone call away to just talk to about it, or ask something if you know, there's something that you're unsure of. And so I think that in the beginning, the plan and the assessment are probably going to be overwhelming to a lot of people, it's a different way of doing things for many of us. But I think that the time that we give, and the relationships that we have with people, our providers, families, just everyone that's involved as a part of each of these teams. Through that time, we're gonna know what people want, we're going to be able to tell that story, we always refer to it as a story, you're really getting to see, you know, a person's life through and through what they like, what they don't like, what they want, what they don't want from us, you know, people should be vocal about that, too. You know, we sat here and talked about outcomes and people working on things for three or four years, we can all go back to those outcomes of you know, taking a shower every day, or, you know, making your bed every morning. And I think many of us could probably say that those things on occasion, maybe haven't happened in our home on a daily basis. And so I think we have to be open-minded to that, and, you know, self-reflective that, yes, the people we support are getting a service, and we're there to help them. But also, they're just like you and I, and so we really need to hear those pieces from people. 


Director Jeff Davis  16:46 

I appreciate that very much. So we have on occasion, perhaps, in our system not taken the planning process as seriously as we should, whether, you know, renewals of the plan, or whatever it looks like, other than the effort is there some magic to, you know, the assessment and the plan is designed that will lead to more energy across the state and more effort in the individual assessment and plan or is it just you think, the emphasis that we're putting on it, and the training and all those kinds of things? 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  17:23 

I think so, because one of the things that we've seen is that the outcome that we're working on, does not connect back to information within the assessment. And so we refer to our team as leaping the Grand Canyon and so in the assessment, we've identified that these things are important to Director Davis. And yeah, then we open the plan and none of those things are in there. And instead, he is really interested in crocheting. But nowhere in the assessment does it talk about crocheting, and we say that's leaping the Grand Canyon. And so I think that's something is going to change with this system. Because the one true system, the OhioISP is going to take the information from the assessment, the SSA or service coordinator is going to be able to check the box and is going to auto-populate that information into the plan. And so I think as SSAs and service coordinators incorporate that in their process, we shouldn't be leaping the Grand Canyon anymore, that if something is identified in the assessment, they check the box and it magically appears in the plan. 


Melissa Skaggs  18:36 

I would like to think that this OhioISP allows us to see the journey. I don't know that we've ever got to see the journey and sometimes we're really focused on goals, outcomes, all those different things. There's a focus now and an ability for us to see experiences and things like that. And I think that's going to tie this to the individual's journey. At the end of the day, we all have outcomes. Everyone has outcomes in their lives no matter what. But the learning happens in the journey. And I'm hoping that this plan allows us to see the individual's journey to get where they're going. 


Amber Cross  19:15 

I agree with that and I really hope that it opens a lot of discussion. So I know we touched a lot on, that we took a lot of time as a workgroup and developing the questions of the assessment and allowing that to get the information to where we need. But I also really hope that as we're having these planning meetings and talking about things, that there's a lot of discussion and a not a lot of like one, two, three, four, five and asking those questions. I know that we're in a system that you know, is with a lot of rules and a lot of, you know, policy and regulations and stuff. But this is the one time to have fun, and just really sit down and get to know the person that you're supporting in their family and just what they want out of life. And I think that through a discussion, you can get the answers to those questions. And maybe there is one or two that get missed. But as we all become more familiar with this assessment, your going to know what questions were overlooked. And then you can come back and ask those, you know, in another manner, you know, when that discussion ends. And so I think that it's really making it a time that everyone wants to participate in, you know, these meetings can get long at times. And, you know, they involve a lot of people. And so you want to make at a time that people are enjoying and not just reading off, and you know, marking, yes, no, or, you know, on to number five now, and so we all learn new things about each other through that process, and just really having a lot of discussion. 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  20:32 

You know, during the pilot, because there was a great amount of effort done by having different county boards, pilot the assessment. And one of the things that I was struck by when the data came back was how much time and how many occurrences the SSA met with the person to complete the assessment. And I feel like that data was insightful. And that it's going to influence the training that is done with implementation that, you know, an assessment will probably take more than one time, and that we might not need to sit together for three or four hours to get it done so that we can meet the deadline. But yeah, it's a discussion, it's a conversation, and we might meet for a while at somebody's house and then meet at the park and then go to the provider agency and in different places that it can happen in different environments. And I think with the consistency of the assessment and the training that should be going across Ohio, that assessments really should turn into conversations and not paperwork. 


Director Jeff Davis  21:33 

That's fabulous. So what have we not talked about? 


Mary Thompson-Hufford  21:39 

Well, I'm just going to say it, I am looking forward to the ISP template, having the word final on it. So that county boards will begin implementing this within their system, I know that there are software companies out there that already have the templates designed and I cannot wait for county boards to start embracing this, because it will have an immediate impact on providers. When we start seeing the consistency of the templates, we can start training our staff on where to find it. And so this does not need to be a light switch that happens next fall, this could actually be something that begins tomorrow. 


Director Jeff Davis  22:21 

Are you thinking?  


Multiple Speakers  22:22 

Yeah, I am. Well, I'm dumbstruck now. I wasn't sure. I'm trying to figure out. 


Melissa Skaggs  22:33 

Where do we take that? You're right, and we need that, we need everyone to be embracing this process. Everyone to be participating in trainings and in learning and, you know, supporting each other. So you know, county boards, providers, everybody's got to be in this hand-to-hand, lockstep. You know, that's how it's going to be successful. I hope we can finally for the individuals as we provide these services, we can sometimes answer the "whys" of things. And hopefully, when we talked about this a lot in the workgroup, sometimes the planning process was punitive to individuals, things stuck with them for a long time because of something that happened in their past. And I remember being in those meetings, and we're like, we can't do this anymore. Our system can't do this anymore. And so, how we can help this process move past some of that punitive feeling sometimes, and to giving the individual some freedoms and some abilities to try new things and new adventures on their journeys. Just like we have, like, that's just, I think so important. 


Amber Cross  23:46 

I agree. 110%, I think we talk a lot about communication and education. And so going back to many things that have been said here, people with disabilities are no different than us. And we all have to learn from our mistakes, we have to all, you know, take chances, we all have to step out into our fears, each of those things by you know, continuing to coddle people, try to protect them, keep them overly safe, not let them try new things, maybe things we disagree with or think they should try another way, it's not going to make things better, it's not going to change it. People still have those thoughts. They're curious just like you and I are, or they just want to try something new, because it's different. And so I think we have to provide them with the tools, whatever that is, and then let them take that leap. And we're going to be there to support them. We also have to, I don't want to say forget about MUI UI, but there's a lot of focus on that. And I know that makes it difficult for DSPs. You know, there's that constant worry. But again, I think if we're all working together, we all know we're here to support each other. We've gathered what information we need, we've included that in a plan, and we have to let people have experiences and try new things and you know, work towards an outcome that we may think is over, you know, stretching it but you know, I I'm sure someone in my life has thought I overstretched a goal or an outcome too. And so let's try it. If it doesn't work, we learn from it. And we try another way. And so I think it's just all of us really working together. And I think this workgroup was a great example of it. There were many times we disagreed. But I think we also just kept coming back to that common reason that we were here, and it's for the people we support, and this is going to be amazing for them, it is truly going to tell their story, and what they want and need from us. And I think that we have to be there for them to do that. 


Director Jeff Davis  25:34 

I'm genuinely appreciative. One that you would take your time and two that you would commit the time that you have, you know, over the past two years, to make this a reality.  


Melissa Skaggs  25:50 

It is an honor, it is absolutely an honor to have served on this workgroup.  


Director Jeff Davis  25:54 

Well, I wasn't looking for that. But that is very nice of you to say. 


Melissa Skaggs  25:57 

But it is. It's an honor to have been asked to participate in something that is so system-changing. 


Amber Cross  26:06 

I agree and I think it's thank you to you as well because I'm sure for you it hasn't been the easiest job for you as well with this, as you know, time delays and, you know, dates of rollout changing and whatnot. I'm sure you get a lot of backlash for that as well and so I think just appreciative for continuing to support us and know that we would, we would get to that end result. It might take a little extra time. But I think we were all upfront with that from the beginning of the workgroup, as was Kelly, that, you know, we're gonna get this right and so if we have to take a small detour this way, or that way, we're going to do that. And I think we are all seeing that it worked, the outcome's here that plan's here and so I think we're excited.  


Director Jeff Davis  26:43 

So it's time to get started.  


Multiple Speakers  26:45 

Yes, yes.  


Director Jeff Davis  26:45 

That's the general consensus. Okay. All right. So we covered, I think somewhat thoroughly one of my favorite topics, so I could not be more appreciative to Amber Cross, Melissa Skaggs, Mary Thompson-Hufford. I think they were candid and honest, were insightful, and they brought with them all their expertise and passion, and you can hear that. So thank you so very much for the time spent, and the time spent over the last few years, and all you've done. 



You've just listened to another episode of the official podcast of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. If you've enjoyed this episode, please like and share with others. For more news and information from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, please visit dodd.ohio.gov. You may also subscribe to our monthly publications and follow DODD on social media and connect with us in our Facebook forums.