Friday, July 24, 2009

Longmont SmartHome Groundbreaking a Success!

Despite the hot! hot! hot! weather we had a great turnout at the groundbreaking of our Longmont SmartHome yesterday.

Attendees included Longmont Mayor Roger Lange, former Longmont Mayor (and Imagine! Foundation board president) Leona Stoecker, and other key dignitaries including Brian Juge, Jeff Dingwall, Denise Selders, Ellen Ranson, Chris Mirto, and Kathy Fedler. Leona spoke passionately to the crowd about the importance of this project and providing opportunities to people with developmental disabilities.

You can read a Longmont Times Call story about the groundbreaking here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Longmont Groundbreaking Set For Tomorrow

Imagine! is breaking ground on its Longmont SmartHome this Thursday, July 23, joining the recently opened Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder to become the first two homes in the nation to incorporate technologies to enhance the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

On December 12, 2007, federal, state, and local leaders met at Longmont’s city government chambers to witness a check presentation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to Imagine! for $645,300 to be used toward the building of Imagine!’s SmartHome in Longmont.

In 2008, after the Imagine! SmartHome team submitted a City of Longmont Application for Affordable Housing Projects, Greg Wellems, Imagine!’s Innovations Director, and Sterling Wind, Imagine!’s SmartHome Project Manager, made a presentation to the City of Longmont’s Technical Review Committee to request City Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for the Longmont SmartHome.

The presentation must have been a resounding success, as Imagine! was notified in October that City of Longmont is recommending that the SmartHome project be awarded $60,232.00, along with an additional $12,934.00 if the City receives more than the minimum amount of CDBG funding, to be directed towards purchasing a lot in Longmont.

And in mid-April, 2009, the Colorado Division of Housing (CDOH) awarded $90,000 to be used for construction costs for the Longmont SmartHome. The award was the result of a grant prepared by Imagine!'s HUD consultant, Mary Anderies, and a presentation by Greg and Sterling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gerald Moves In To The Charles SmartHome

Great video! Watch as Gerald Stopa, the very first resident of the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, enters his new house for the very first time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Meet the Charles SmartHome Residents

We’re a little more than halfway through July, and a little less than halfway there in terms of residents moving in to the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome.

It seems like a good time to introduce all of the new SmartHome residents: those who have moved in (Gerald, Donna, and Mandy), and those who will be moving in the next couple of weeks (Chris, John, Lana, Rae, and Rebecca).

Each resident will have their own webpage on the SmartHomes website. There, they will be able to post photos, videos, diary entries, and plenty of other stuff so we can all share their experiences living at the SmartHome.

You can check out their pages here. We’re just starting to build up the pages, so bookmark them and come back often. The pages will help us all discover what we can learn from these new residents and their experiences as they demonstrate the SmartHome in action.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tours, Tours, Tours

Today, key staff from the Ohio Provider Resource Association will be touring the Charles SmartHome. Tomorrow, Dr. Sharon Jacksi, from the Colorado State Division for Developmental Disabilities, will be touring the home.

The desire of so many organizations, both in Colorado and nationally, to learn about this project serves as another reminder of how Imagine!'s SmartHomes continue to be recognized as an innovative way to improve the efficiency and quality of services in the developmental disability field.

Now that the residents have moved in, we will be setting a formalized schedule for tours in the future. While we certainly recognize that the Charles SmartHome is a “show home” of sorts, we also are very aware of the fact that the folks living there can’t be “on call” to do tours any day and time of the week. They need to go to their jobs, or to their neighborhood activities, or visit with friends and family.

In short, they need the ability to engage fully in the community. That is Imagine!’s mission, and that’s why we built the Charles SmartHome, and that’s why we’re building another SmartHome in Longmont.

Guided tours of the Charles SmartHome will be available to the public starting in August. More details will be posted on the SmartHomes website soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Are We Doing This?

If you are new to this (new) blog, you may be saying – this all sounds very cool, buy why are you building this thing anyway?

There are many reasons driving this goal of creating a new way of providing residential services:

Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex as people live longer.

Residential healthcare facilities, including facilities for people with developmental disabilities, are increasingly filling with older residents with more complex healthcare needs.
This problem is compounded by the fact that people are living longer. According to The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities: 2005, in 2004, approximately 2.8 million of the 4.6 million with mental retardation or other developmental disabilities in the U.S. were receiving support from family caregivers. The lifespan of persons with developmental disabilities in the 1970s was approximately 56 yrs, and in 1993 the lifespan was 66 years. Now, it is expected that, with the exception of those with the most severe disabilities, "those with developmental disabilities will have a lifespan typical of that of the general population. The increased lifespan has accounted for an estimated 10-20% increase in demand for residential services in the past 3 decades alone." Emerging residential technologies that will be utilized at the SmartHome can address projected demand for long-term care services and reduce the need for tens of thousands of additional staff.

Caregivers need more information.

This increase in the complexity of healthcare leads to an increase in a caregiver’s need for up-to-date, accurate and relevant information about the people they serve. This can create a huge burden on a caregiver’s time. The SmartHome will automate many of these tasks, providing caregivers with more time to do what they do best: take care of people.

Healthcare is costly.

In 2006, Americans spent $2.2 trillion on healthcare, 50% more than any country. Currently, 40% of the United States budget is spent on Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, and that number is expected to rise to 74% by 2030. Finding ways to provide improved healthcare services while simultaneously improving cost efficiency is imperative, and Imagine! is leading the way with the creation of its SmartHome.

Healthcare IT is critical.

It is estimated that 98,000 people die due to hospital errors each year. Imagine!’s SmartHome will use technology to improve the quality and effectiveness of services and simplify and increase medical surveillance to reduce medical errors.

It is about giving someone a better life.

All the reasons listed above are great. But ultimately, the SmartHome is designed to develop, use, and learn about technologies that can improve an individual’s (an individual who faces serious challenges due to a cognitive or developmental disability) quality of life. To give them a sense of independence they never had before. To give them the opportunity to embrace their community in a way all of us would like to.

Click here to see a short, moving video from the dedication of the Charles SmartHome to see the human face of what we are trying to do and why.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Going Green to Meet Our Mission

The Colorado developmental disabilities system is in a state of crisis. Colorado ranks 46th in the nation in fiscal effort toward providing funding for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, and there are currently more than 9,100 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families on a waiting list to receive services in Colorado, and that number continues to grow every year.

You may ask, what does this have to do with the SmartHomes and green building? For Imagine!, creating a new, sustainable way of assisting some of our most vulnerable citizens meant creating a comprehensive plan for increasing efficiencies while improving services at the same time. The development and construction of the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome was the result of this planning, and using green technologies and building techniques was a natural extension of this effort.
The Charles SmartHome, funded by private donations and grants, provides permanent affordable housing for eight individuals with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities, and incorporates cutting edge technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of services and supports for the residents.

Our energy efficient efforts began by building a tight structure with upgraded insulation, and include passive solar heating. Some of the green technologies included are a heat recovery ventilation system, three geothermal ground source heat pumps, solar photo voltaic panels (6.75kW), solar thermal system, and a whole house energy load monitoring system to help the Charles SmartHome reduce energy costs and improve the overall efficiency level of Imagine!’s service provision. Most importantly, these efforts and technologies embody the core of Imagine!’s mission, which is to provide tools and supports that allow people with developmental disabilities to become active members of their community and contributing citizens. Living in a home designed to limit impacts on the environment and human health, and enhance their neighbors’ lives, certainly enables the Charles SmartHome residents to contribute in a tangible and meaningful way to their community.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Circle of Seven" Prepare Welcome Gifts for Charles SmartHome Residents

One of the nice things about working at a non-profit organization is that you often get to see the best, and most generous, side of your community.

Case in point:

A group of friends in Boulder formed a group called the “Circle of Seven.” Their goal was to come together to focus on a large volunteer opportunity (think "book club" - but for volunteering.)

All of the friends researched opportunities and came back together with many, many wonderful options. They found it was too hard to choose and filter anything out! So they decided to do one large project together, and smaller groups are continuing to work together to complete other projects we came up with.

One of the projects the group came up with was preparing "Welcome Home" kits for the new Imagine! Charles SmartHome residents!

The kits included embroidered bath and hand towels, embroidered name plates for their doors, a small plant (very easy to care for - in mugs), a12x12 white board with an extra pen, a shower caddy with a laminated name label on it, a hand-painted picture frame, some Doc Popcorn buttered popcorn, a Melamine dish set including plate, salad plate, bowl, cup, a sketch pad and markers, and a metal water bottle.

The three residents who have moved in so far have been delighted with the gifts, and we are sure that trend will continue.

All of us on the SmartHome team offer many thanks to the generous women who put these baskets together: Daria Carter, Lauren White, and Mary Davis. You are the very definition of community, and we are most grateful.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Charles SmartHome Resident Moves In

After years of planning and hard work, the dream becomes real today! The first resident of the Charles SmartHome, Gerald Stopa, is moving in today.

Gerald’s story is the perfect example of why we built the SmartHome. Imagine if you will that you can’t turn the lights on or off in your room by yourself. Or you can’t decide what you want to watch on TV or listen to on your stereo. Or you can’t even tell somebody if you are hurt, or happy, or sad, because you can’t talk.

When Gerald began receiving services from Imagine! several years ago, that was what he was facing. Gerald has cerebral palsy and very limited speech and movement. However, technology, such as the kind of technology that will be used in the SmartHome, has allowed Gerald, at age 47, to learn to read, communicate, play music, select his own TV programs and videos to watch, and basically control his own environment to a much greater degree than at any time in the past.

Gerald is now in charge of his life in a way nobody would have thought possible just ten years ago. The goal of the SmartHome is to act as a laboratory for all sorts of technologies so many more people can have the kind of opportunities that Gerald has.

Welcome to your new home Gerald! I know you will make us proud!