Q. Tell us about yourself and your role within the organization.
A. Born and raised in the Bismarck area, and I have lived in North Dakota for most of my life, other than for five years that we lived in Missouri, where I worked as the Executive Director of a Non-Profit in the St. Louis Area. I am an avid runner and I am a die-hard St. Louis Cardinal and Green Bay Packer fan. I have been married to my wife, Lisa for the past 25 years and we have three children- Brandon, Tara and Lauren.
I have worked in the field of developmental disabilities since 1981, most of those years working for non-profit organizations in North Dakota and Missouri. I founded Community Options in 1997 and have served as President for the past 20 years.
Q. Briefly tell us the history of Community Options.
A. Community Options began in July 1997. My vision was to create an organization that supported people’s dreams of living a lifestyle of their choice. Our services were driven and directed by each person, while at the same time surrounding them with a team of individuals who would carry out the support plan to achieve their dreams.
We began providing employment and residential services to people who had developmental disabilities. These services included independent living supports in their homes and apartments, assistance in finding and keeping employment, and in-home supports to families who had children with disabilities.
In 2000 we expanded our services to Dickinson and Devils Lake, shortly thereafter, we included Jamestown. Today we provide services across the entire state, with offices in Bismarck, Dickinson, Williston, Minot, Devils Lake, Grand Forks, Fargo, Jamestown, Fort Yates, New Town, and Fort Totten. Today Community Options has around 450 employees statewide and provides services to approximately 1200 people. Our services are for people with developmental disabilities, elderly, low-income single parents, people who are recovering from a brain injury and those who have mental health challenges along with substance abuse issues.
Q. What differentiates Community Options from its competitors?
A. The fact that all of our services are provided in community-based settings, which affords maximum opportunities for people with disabilities to interact and develop relationships/friendships with other members of our community is what sets us apart from others. We do not offer group homes or center-based services. We believe each person’s services and supports should be personalized to meet their living needs within their own home or apartment and employment preferences with local businesses.
Q. How has the growth of Bismarck-Mandan impacted Community Options?
A. Growth within Bismarck-Mandan has had positive effects on our company in many ways. The construction of new apartment buildings has afforded more choices for people we support, while at the same time, rising rents have been a challenge for most people we support due to their fixed incomes.
Bismarck/Mandan’s rising population has on one hand helped meet our growing need for more employees; however, competition in Bismarck is high for those employees, making recruiting and retention a challenge.
The growth of existing, as well as, new businesses in the area has provided great opportunities for employment for the people we support through our employment programs.
Q. What industry trends are taking place?
A. The trends in the industry are definitely moving towards providing services within individualized community settings rather than in group settings such as group homes and center-based large group services. Over the next several years, the push will come from state and federal funding agencies to move away from group settings to more individualized services utilizing community settings.
Q. Have there been any monumental changes in the industry that you’ve had to deal with?
A. The monumental change that I have had to deal with was de-institutionalization of the state institution at Grafton. New agencies began, group homes and workshops were built to accommodate the needs. The entire service delivery system changed and had to accommodate the movement of well over a thousand individuals into services in communities all over North Dakota.
Q. What does the future of Community Options look like and the industry as a whole look like to you?
A. I believe the future will be positive for Community Options, as well as our industry. As funding challenges loom, we will have to continually re-tool in order to meet the needs of people, while doing so as efficiently as we can, in light of reductions in funding. We will continue to diversify services, to keep us competitive in the market place.
Q. Community Options became a member in 2004, why do you continue to renew each year?
A. The Chamber gives us such great opportunities to network with other local businesses, which increases opportunities for us to find employment for the people we support.
Q. What should Chamber members know about Community Options that may assist them?
A. We support hundreds of people in the Bismarck-Mandan area that are looking for work. We can be a rich resource for local businesses in meeting their employment needs.