SIS pilot study in Edmonton, Alberta draws positive feedback from participants
Ryan Popplestone, Community Supports Coordinator with Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) in Alberta, Canada, walks us through the myriad details that go into ensuring a smooth pilot study of the Supports Intensity Scale. Since last year, the Edmonton and Calagary Region Community Boards and PDD have been rolling out a pilot project to determine if SIS can adequately determine resource allocation for people with intellectual disability. To date, 25 SIS interviews have been conducted. “The interviews provided insight into the nature of supports required for the person to live and participate successfully in activities that are not only needed by the person, but have meaning for the person too,” says Popplestone. “The feedback has been both positive and constructive.” In this interview, we especially asked Ryan to focus on the communication between various stakeholders to guarantee a successful pilot program.
AAIDD: What has your province done in terms of preparing various stake holders for the roll out of the Supports Intensity Scle? What were the communication vehicles used?
Popplestone: Various stakeholders were prepared for roll-out of the SIS through Design Team consultations. A Design Team comprised of stakeholder groups including adults with developmental disabilities, family members, service providers, advocacy groups and representatives from PDD, and broader-based communications internally (PDD Edmonton) and externally. Related to the implementation of SIS in a pilot capacity, weekly telephone conference calls with a consultation firm, PDD Edmonton and Calgary and Agency representatives were engaged to ensure those implementing the SIS were aware of items-to-do and discuss potential risks and mitigation strategies.
Communication Vehicles used in this process include monthly bulletins; PDD Edmonton website; Internal (PDD Edmonton and Calgary) team/unit presentations, general staff meetings, presentations to the PDD Board; Presentations to various stakeholder groups (Council of Service Providers, Coordinated Intake, etc.); Design Team members sharing with the stakeholder groups they represent; and involving several external stakeholders in the SIS training as observers.
AAIDD: How important was it to keep all these parties informed?
Popplestone: Keeping all these parties informed was critical in enhancing the opportunity to experience a successful rollout. In addition to the government maintaining transparency surrounding use of the Support Intensity Scale in the pilot capacity, stakeholders had an opportunity to express concerns and thoughts regarding the roll out. This also provided PDD Edmonton and Calgary the opportunity to identify, understand, and address those concerns and thoughts.
AAIDD: How did elements of what you did make things easier later? How did families in particular react to communications and was their opinion vis-à-vis SIS affected in any way after communications?
Popplestone: Specifically, communication through email, mail out of SIS packages and follow-up conversations with parties involved with the rollout of the SIS (Design Team, ten service providers (Calgary and Edmonton), and SIS interview candidates identified through creation of a random, stratified sample) ensured agencies and respondents had a strong sense of the SIS process and what a SIS interview would look like. As a result of communications up front, interview times (on average 90 to 120 minutes as per AAIDD communications) started to fall into this time range and respondents had a strong idea of what the tool is for and how it would be used for the purpose of the pilot.
Family/guardian/independent adult reactions to communications varied greatly. In some situations, the family/guardian/independent adult viewed the SIS as an opportunity for the government to reassess and reduce funded supports. These respondents have typically not agreed to participate in SIS interviews. Others have regarded communications as succinct and have participated in the SIS interviews. Another portion of people with whom we communicated found the information to be succinct. However, they identified that they have been ‘piloted/assessed out’ and opted not to participate in the SIS pilot. Families were assured that the SIS would also assist in identifying that the individual would receive the “right” services to meet the individual’s needs and to help them be successful. Families were receptive to this and responded positively.
AAIDD: What would you tell other states considering use of SIS as best practices advice in this area?
Popplestone: Firstly, I’d say, identify how you intend to use the SIS (for target groups, for system-wide implementation, as a planning tool, to ensure the equitable allocation of resources, and as a piece in measuring or predicting funding levels, etc.). You have to engage stakeholders in the process early – take time and be deliberate about providing solid communication around use of the SIS. When coordinating interviews, mail information related to the SIS (c.d. format, letter, etc.) and follow-up with a call to respondents to provide the opportunity to ask questions/provide clarification. Finally, use ‘plain language’.
AAIDD: Do you have any materials that you could share with others?
Popplestone: PDD Edmonton and Calgary has communications materials, information packages and data collection documents that could be perused and potentially used as needed. There is also a research document that looked at several tools which assisted in making the decision to pilot the SIS.
AAIDD: How has your experience with SIS been in general?
Popplestone: The experience has been both challenging and insightful.
AAIDD: Any other thoughts you'd like to convey to our readers?
Popplestone: Yes. The general perspective provided by those respondents participating in SIS interviews to date is that the tool provides a strong insight into supports actually needed versus what supports are currently provided (or not provided). Transparency in intent and communication are critical in rolling out the SIS. To “do it right”, great thought, planning and attention to detail are necessary in SIS-related communications. The more the information is comprehended, the more likely people are to participate. Involving a couple of regions across the province has been helpful for the purpose of consistency in how individual’s needs are assessed and for portability.