How one state's communications efforts during SIS implementation resulted in a stronger stakeholder partnership
Washington was one of the first states to adopt the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) assessment to determine eligibility, assess needs, plan services, and provide funding to its citizens with intellectual disabilities. Here, Linda Rolfe, Director of Washington's Division of Developmental Disabilities, talks with AAIDD on how the state prepared families, providers, case managers and other stakeholders extensively on the implementation of SIS. "As a result of this collaborative approach, our stakeholder partnership is stronger today," explains Rolfe.
AAIDD: What has Washington state done in terms of preparing various stakeholders for the roll out of the Supports Intensity Scale?
Rolfe: Once the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) was chosen as the foundation of the new assessment process, our staff developed a comprehensive communications plan to identify, manage, and coordinate the wide variety of communications needed for successful implementation. The communications plan identified:
-Guiding principles, methods, and rationale for distributing information to stakeholders
-Stakeholders and stakeholder groups who would needed updated information regularly
-Key messages for specific stakeholder groups
-Key staff responsible for providing relevant, accurate, consistent, and timely information
-Methods our stakeholders could use to provide us with feedback
-Schedule for routine communications
After the plan was developed, approved, and implemented, we scheduled regular meetings with stakeholders and distributed information through mass mailings. We also developed a training video to help people understand how the Supports Intensity Scale was administered. We maintain a website for the general public to view assessment related information. Finally, the rule-making process (Washington Administrative Code) that governs the use and administration of the SIS offers additional opportunities for public input both in writing and in person through public hearings. In addition, we met monthly with a Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) stakeholder advisory team made up of parents, self-advocates, and representatives from protection and advocacy groups, counties, and providers. They were able to incorporate information from these meetings into their own organizational communications which greatly enhanced our ability to get information out to clients and families.
AAIDD: Why did you feel it was important to keep all parties informed?
Rolfe: The successful implementation of any project is directly related to the support of its internal and external stakeholders. The Supports Intensity Scale is different from the most common assessment tool that was in use and many people had questions about its potential impact. In addition, many were uncertain as to how the SIS would be of benefit to them. The information provided was able to answer some of the questions.
AAIDD: So it looks like all this groundwork in communications helped make things roll out more effectively and smoothly?
Rolfe: Yes, by including stakeholders very early in the decision-making process, we were able to provide information, answer questions, solicit feedback, and reduce anxiety associated with change. Further, these efforts facilitated stakeholder rapport which garnered broad stakeholder support across the state for the successful implementation of the SIS.
AAIDD: How did families in particular react to communications? Was their opinion on the Supports Intensity Scale affected in any way after these communications?
Rolfe: Overall, we believe families responded positively to our communication efforts. Having knowledge about the Supports Intensity Scale and its potential benefits helped families understand the value of the approach of the SIS toward assessing a person's support needs. It also created an opportunity for families to contact us directly so we could understand and address their individual questions and concerns.
AAIDD: What would you tell other states considering use of the Supports Intensity Scale as best practices advice in the area of communication with stakeholders?
Rolfe: We believe the success of any endeavor is dependent upon stakeholder support. A collaborative approach created an atmosphere of inclusion and allowed identification of who should be involved in the development, decision-making, and implementation processes. By involving stakeholders early, they invested time and energy to assist in answering questions and resolving issues. As a result, many stakeholders had a vested interest in the successful implementation of the new assessment.
AAIDD: Do you have any materials used for your communications that you could share with others?
Rolfe: We have posted the majority of our communications materials on the Internet at http://www1.dshs.wa.gov/ddd/CAP.shtml. The Developmental Disabilities Council and the Arc of Washington also co-sponsored a DVD for families about the assessment experience and how to prepare. The video may be viewed at http://www.informingfamilies.org/Request_DVDs.htm
AAIDD: How has your experience with the Supports Intensity Scale been in general?
Rolfe: Our experience with the Supports Intensity Scale has been positive. The SIS provides us with a direct, reliable, and valid measure of supports needed by our clients across multiple life areas. In addition, the 'supports needed to be successful' approach reinforces Washington?s fundamental values that support people with developmental disabilities with opportunities to achieve six core benefits including health and safety; power and choice; integration; relationships; status and respect; and competence.
AAIDD: Any other thoughts you'd like to convey to our readers?
Rolfe: By including stakeholders throughout the process, we were able to resolve many issues before the actual implementation of the Supports Intensity Scale. As a result of this collaborative approach, our stakeholder partnership is stronger today.