In March 2020, the pandemic catapulted the Developmental Disability Services System into a new age of unique service needs, rapid adaptation to the new normal, unprecedented systemic flexibilities, and a surge of innovative supports. As public health guidelines forced schools and site-based programs to close in-person programs, the support needs of the people we serve still existed. Keeping the people we serve safe was critical and at the forefront of vendors’ minds as the news reported people with developmental disabilities were high-risk and losing the battle to COVID at higher than average rates. Our system needed to come together quickly to respond to the public health emergency. As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.” The Vendor Advisory Committee (VAC) became a lifeline to keep us all moving toward the same goal: To support and empower people with developmental disabilities to live healthy and meaningful lives.
The Vendor Advisory Committee (VAC) existed before the pandemic and has always been a place for vendors to come together with Inland Regional Center (IRC) and other key stakeholders to collaborate on system improvement and streamline communication. As shared by Felecia Arnold, Owner of NEMT 1st. Class Transportation and VAC Co-Chair, “The concept of people engaged in discussion and problem solving to address a common cause or goal, is ALWAYS a great activity. This is only if all sides of the forum contribute and respond openly toward the goal of improving the systems.” IRC leadership works closely with the VAC to actively participate in our monthly meetings by providing relevant updates, answering questions, listening to feedback, and collaborating on solutions to common challenges.
The Vendor Advisory Committee is also a place for vendors to work together to share experiences, successes, challenges, and ideas on how we can work together to pool our collective knowledge to better serve our community. I personally gained invaluable mentorship from leaders in the Disability Services Industry through connections made through the VAC when I first took on a management role at 24 Hour Home Care in our Disability Services Division in 2014. I believe these connections and mentorship helped me become a better leader and advocate for developmental disability services and helped elevate my career. As the current IRC VAC Chair, I strive to work with the VAC membership and IRC leadership to create the same learning and collaborative environment that I benefited from early in my career for others.
Want to get involved? We currently have openings to join the VAC! Information on how to get more information or apply is at the bottom of this page. One of the newest members of our VAC, Rachel Steward, Area Director at The Mentor Network shared why she chose to get involved: “As a person who has attended the VAC for several years and a new member, I would say there are several reasons why the VAC is important. I cannot stress enough the value this meeting has played during the pandemic as all companies across the state and the world shut down. Many of us needed a place to ask questions and get answers. The VAC has also been a great resource for information, trainings, and ways to better the quality of services for the individuals we serve. I ultimately decided on applying for the board because I wanted more access to the amazing people and resources the VAC provides as well as share any knowledge, I have that can better the people that work in this field.”
All VAC meetings are open meetings which means you are invited to join and participate, even if you are not on the VAC board. We typically have over a 100 people join each month and hope to see you there! Full VAC meetings are held on the 3rd Monday of every month from 9am-11am on Zoom. Vendor category Pre-VAC meetings are arranged by the vendor category representatives and may vary. Contact your category representative below to be added to the email distribution list for meetings. If you don’t know who your representative is, you can always reach out to April Stewart (VAC Chair) or Felecia Arnold (VAC Co-Chair) with the type of service you provide so we can refer you to the correct representative.
If you are interested in joining the VAC board for an open category representative position, Residential Level 2-3 or Residential Level 4, please contact the Membership Committee Chair, Ruth Goodsell at email@example.com
|Day Programs||Lynn De Andafirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Infant/Children Programs||Johana Caicedo||Johana.email@example.com|
|Health Facilities||Michelle Clarkefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Specialists/Support Programs||Doug McKown||Dr.McKown@SamaritanCares.org|
|Vocational Programs||Marie Chatmanemail@example.com|
|Behavior Mod Programs||Rachel Steward||Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Residential Level 2-3||OPEN|
|Residential Level 4||OPEN|
Guest Blogger: April Stewart
April Stewart is the Regional Director of Strategy and Partnership at 24 Hour Home Care and the Vendor Advisory Committee Chair.
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