Bridging a service gap: New scholarship offers assistance to those waiting for service funding

David H. Crosson

The Indian Creek Foundation serves individuals with developmental disabilities, specifically those individuals in our community who have mental retardation or an autism spectrum disorder. The Foundation was founded by Harley and Anna Gehman, of Salford Mennonite Church, and incorporated in 1975. Today Indian Creek serves 600 individuals and employs over 250 people.

In Pennsylvania today there are 21,412 people waiting for mental retardation services. The state places individuals into one of three categories based on their urgency of need.

The first list is called the Emergency Waiting List. This list currently consists of 4,264 individuals who need mental retardation services immediately (six months or less). These services are often residential placements such as group homes, but also included are people who need a vocational or day program. Many times a family will take care of their loved one at home, but then due to age or death of the parents, the person can no longer live at home and must go to a service provider. The second list is called the Critical Waiting List. There are 9,460 people on this list, and it represents people who will need service in the next 2 years. The final list is the Planning Waiting List. This list has 7,688 people who will need services in the next five years.

Over the years, funding to support people on the waiting list has been scarce. The state has not set aside dollars to significantly reduce the number of people on the waiting list. This translates into relatives and friends caring for individuals while they wait for a possible opening. The most recent budget passed in Pennsylvania has finally targeted some money to reduce the waiting list.

However one concern that we continue to see at Indian Creek Foundation is a two to four year gap in service between graduating from high school and receiving a placement into a vocational program. This is tragic because the teachers in our schools do a great job preparing individuals with disabilities to live and work in the community, but when there is no program for them, they stay at home, watch TV, and lose a lot of those skills while waiting for services.

At Indian Creek Foundation we looked at this problem and decided to try and do something about it. We have been blessed by God in so many ways from our building (the former Penn View Elementary School) to our many generous benefactors that we feel the need to give back and pass our blessings forward. To this end we started a scholarship fund. This fund enables us to accept people who are on the waiting list and serve them at a greatly reduced rate until the state funds their placement. Generally we ask the families to pay for one day of services and we provide a week’s worth of training. To date we are serving four individuals in this way through our vocational programs. The scholarship program enables these people to be actively engaged during the day and it helps them to maintain the skills that have learned in school.

A staff memeber and<br /> client enjoy working<br /> in the Indian Creek<br /> garden, where they<br /> grow vegetables and<br /> flowers.A list of people waiting for developmental disability services will be with us for the foreseeable future. Service providers like Indian Creek Foundation will need to continue to think about non-traditional, creative solutions so that all people who need services are supported despite the shortfalls of funding. I would like to thank the Franconia Mennonite Conference as well as all our local Mennonite churches and their members for all the support that you have given and continue to give to our ministry at Indian Creek Foundation. You are a blessing to us and those we serve.