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New Chapter For Horizons Unlimited

By Staff | Jun 2, 2016

Life is filled with challenges and in many cases, those challenges require adapting and change. For Horizons Unlimited, the next phase in the evolution of the entity is at hand. Horizons Unlimited officials outlined changes for the organization during a special gathering last week in Emmetsburg.

Horizons Executive Director Ron Askland explained the overall plan for the entity, which has served individuals with disabilities since beginning in 1966. Through its history of service, Horizons has provided residential services, day habilitation, supported employment/community employment, recycling services and bottle and can redemption from its location in Emmetsburg.

However, changes regulations and programs over the past months at the local, state and government level are prompting changes for Horizons Unlimited.

“In the past few months, Horizons has discontinued recycling and can redemption operations, due to changes in federal Medicare regulations,” explained Askland. “Those regulations called for the discontinuation of segregated employment for our clients, which is how our recycling and can redemption programs were classified.”

According to the Medicare directives, Horizons clients with disabilities were to be integrated into their community, working in the community rather than in the workshop programs.

“We were also faced with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires non-segregation by employers and the state’s Mental Health re-organization a couple of years ago,” Askland added. “The re-design eliminated sheltered workshops as a core service for counties. But, some counties continued to fund workshops on their own. The end result of all of these requirements is that it has forced us into making some changes in the way Horizons operates.”

According to Askland, one of the biggest changes is that Horizons sold its’ campus on the south edge of Emmetsburg to The Kerber Companies, and will be moving their administrative offices to 2107 Main Street in Emmetsburg, moving to the new offices by mid-June.

“Another major change is that Horizons will have a Day Hab program without walls,” Askland said. “Our staff will pick up our clients every morning, take them to their jobs, and then take them home at the end of the day. Under our old program, our clients had two choices working in the can redemption center or with recycling. Now, they will be able to work at businesses in the community.”

According to Askland, Horizons’ emphasis will now be directed towards Community Employment and Job Development for clients. “People will have more of a choice this way.”

Josiah Schmidt, Employment Support Professional for Horizons expanded on Askland’s comments. “The wave of the future is supported employment and customized employment and this is what Horizons will be focusing on in the future.”

Under Supported Employment, clients are matched with an employer in need of an employee. A job coach assists the employee to become proficient at their job, as well as fitting in at the workplace and eventually fades into the background, occasionally checking on the employee as they become more self-sufficient.

“With these changes, our organization is going to be known as Job Connect, rather than Horizons, Unlimited,” Schmidt said. “We will be able to work with individuals who are on Supplemental Security Income and Supplemental Security Disability Income clients as well. “

The Customized Employment service entails a visit to a business by an employment services specialist, who assesses the needs of the business through tours of the business, interviews with management and ownership and then matches those needs with the skills of clients.

“We look at the bottom line the benefit that the individual can bring to the company, as well as the benefit to the individual,” explained Toni Tewes, an Employment Services Manager for Hope Haven, who is working with the local entity in the venture.

Liz Mammen, Manager of the Second Hand Thrift operation, reinforced the idea of hiring clients from Horizons. “These folks are willing to do anything you ask of them. They’re always willing to try something new!”

For more information on the upcoming changes, contact Horizons/Job Connect at 712-852-2211.