The Gold Standard – A Commitment to Excellence

The Hamilton County Gold Standard

By Jamie Steele – OVRS Executive Director

One of the benefits of working in the field the past 30 years is the ability to recall our DD system’s history.  As a young man of 18 years, I first began my journey as a direct support professional in a group home of six individuals living in Hyde Park.  This was a fascinating time to be working with individuals with disabilities as everything was new!  Group homes, agencies, services, community acceptance or lack their of at having individuals living in a home next door or down the street.  That first group of individuals with developmental disabilities to live in the community in the late 70’s & 80’s were pioneers, as well as all of us who assisted them.

To me there was one clear phenomenon that was taking place in our Hamilton County service system at that time, cooperation.  Even though many different agencies were started with unique legal identities, we were all doing basically the same thing.  We were all providing homes and services for people with DD living in the community.   Many local leaders emerged during the first two decades of community services:  Michael DeFrancesco-OVRS, Griff Hogan-Resident Home for MR, David Robinson-LADD, Tom Kidd-HCBDD, Marti Adams-Core, Inc., just to name a few.  Often and throughout my initial years as a DSP, Program Director and then Executive Director, I leaned on these individuals to educate, advise and support me in becoming an ethical and impactful professional in our field.    I was so lucky to have professionals who were willing to mentor me, even if in a business sense they were my competitors.

In 2015 when the new CMS regulations came into effect and it was apparent that our system was going to go through a major change, Cindy Wright – Executive Director of Community Supports and I met and discussed how we could re-create that cooperative, mentoring mentality again with other providers in the county.  We had been separated by competition long enough.  We presented our idea to the leaders at Hamilton County DDS and immediately gained support.  After bringing nine or ten providers together, Cindy and I began to realize how needed and desired this group was within the provider community.  The Gold Standard was born.

The Gold Standard is a group of providers.  The County Board does not run or oversee the group. Our County Board is our partner who has an interest in having providers become the best they can be operationally and programmatically, as well as having thriving individual businesses.

The belief of the Gold Standard Providers and our County Board is that if providers collectively become better businesses, striving for excellence and in turn the County Board supports, provides assistance and recognizes these providers for doing so, then in the end this is what is best for our mutual customer, the individual receiving services and their family. Pretty simple right? In theory, yes. In practice it’s a daily exercise to review and implement practices within our businesses that meet the Gold Standard.  We are trying to attain excellence and as partners (GS Providers & our County Board) we support each other on that journey. For me, the Gold Standard is captured in this phrase, “Striving everyday to move beyond mere compliance.”  In an essence, we Gold Standard providers want to move from being  “Good Providers” to  “Great Providers”.

It first starts with acknowledging our roles as team members, embracing, valuing and supporting those roles. County Boards have a role to play and providers need to understand, embrace and support that role.  In turn, County Boards need to understand, embrace and support the role of the provider. Not just saying it, but putting it into practice everyday.  Compliance and regulation are the standard.  We are committed to going above and beyond.

Defining Provider Gold Standard – The Agreement we have with each other 

  1. Integration – building global processes, policies, activities and goals to build relationships in the community
  2. QA system (Internal)
    1. Developing a process within each agency to monitor ourselves to ensure Gold Standard services
  3. Develop best practices for DSP’s & Management
    1. Expanding on common knowledge
    2. Internal group within each Gold Standard member agency to identify trends and patterns
  • Gold Standard Members sharing identified trends and patterns as a group to better identify global concerns
  1. Collaborative effort for Gold Standard Training (above compliance)
  2. Academy of DSP, NorthStar, TIC, CPI, etc.
  3. Develop best practices for DSP’s, Management
  1. Effort to match staff with clients –
    1. Clients have input with who is providing supports
    2. Interviewing techniques
  2. Collaborative effort with each Gold Standard member to share industry best practices.

As we move forward, the Gold Standard group will continue to engage, support, find partnerships when possible and educate each other.  Everything old is new again in 2017 and this group is an example of agencies committing themselves to excellence.   As long as we keep the individual with DD and families in the center, we can build a community that is attentive to their needs and desires.

Click to watch Gold Standard Training April 2017