Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content AROUND TOWN: The Resource Exchange: 50 years helping those with developmental disabilities

By Linda Navarro Published: February 7, 2014

A "500-year flood" on the September day of the top fundraiser of the year and a freezing rain on the night of the first special event of the year in January couldn't wash away The Resource Exchange's plans for a golden anniversary.

All Executive Director David Ervin could do was laugh -and hope for an ark.

Kicking off the 12 months of TRE's 50th anniversary Jan. 30 at The Warehouse, the agency's staff members, partner agencies and sponsors had time to visit and plan for a busy year.

TRE, founded in 1964, has a mission of "building independence for people with developmental disabilities." As a community-centered board, services are provided in partnership with private, community-based service agencies and providers. According to TRE, these kinds of boards have offered an alternative to institutionalization. Now there are 20 CCBs serving approximately 19,000 individuals and their families throughout Colorado.

As an umbrella agency, TRE is reponsible for determining eligibility for services defined by the state's Developmental Disability Services. Then options for care are offered to those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and, as appropriate, their families.

"Everyone with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities goes through TRE, which monitors these adults and children 24/7," said the agency's development director, Sheila Ferguson. The current caseload is 3,000 for TRE's 145 employees.

However, there are more than 8,000 people on the waiting list for services in Colorado, with 800 of those from the Pikes Peak region. "These are just the folks we know about," Ervin said.

Colorado House Bill 1051, which passed this week in the House by a unanimous vote and is moving to the Senate, is designed to change this. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing will be required to report an exact number of people needing services to the General Assembly at the end of each year and a strategic plan will be implemented. The plan will also go to a joint budget committee.

Another problem to be solved, said Ervin, is the estimated 12,000 individuals with developmental disabilities being cared for at home by aging parents. "We are taking steps to address the imminent influx of people who will need care."

The majority of TRE funding comes from state and federal governments, including nearly 50 percent from Medicaid. Grants and donations from corporations, foundations and sponsors help fund new programs.

When TRE started in 1964, it served 85 children and adults and had one full-time coordinator, a secretary, two bus drivers and a budget of $75,000, according to the nonprofit's history. Now there are TRE community-based offices covering El Paso, Park and Teller counties, and an operating budget of almost $12 million.

The 3-year-old Developmental Disabilities Health Center (DDHC), a collaboration between TRE, Peak Vista Family Health Centers and AspenPointe, is considered a national model as an integrated program of primary, mental and behavioral health care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Ervin said.

Through other TRE programs, students learn life lessons about understanding fellow classmates with autism; those in law enforcement are trained to understand the actions, language and needs of those with disabilities; a respite program offers parents and caregivers a break from their care duties; and the public and media learn "people first language" such as "people with disabilities" instead of "the handicapped."

In the planning stages are educational programs for children between ages 3 and school age, as well as a transition into the community and working world after high school, said Ferguson.

TRE 50th Anniversary Celebration Year

(Information: tre.org)

Feb. 15: "Fall in Love with TRE," Parents Information Fair, 10 a.m.-noon, Gill Center for Public Media, 315 E. Costilla St.

March: National Developmental Disabilities Awareness.

March 5: ARC FilmFest, Stargazers Theatre and Event Center

March 15: TRE marches in the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown

April: National Autism Awareness Month, National Volunteer Month

April 26: 5K Walk/Run for Autism Awareness, American the Beautiful Park

May: Honoring Mothers

June: Honoring Fathers

July: Focus on Health, Family FunFest

Arts & Crafts Show

August: Back to School

September 12: Fifth Annual Building the Dream @ The Broadmoor

October: National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Halloween at the Haunted Mines

November: Month of Gratitude, National Disability Employment Awareness Month

December: TRE Holiday Open House wrapping up the anniversary year

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