St. Louis Center Earns CARF Acreditation





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By Mary Hall, mhall@thesuntimesnews.com

While not yet required by the State of Michigan, the Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation is looked upon very highly as a respected source of information and confirmation regarding details of just how well an institution is operating. According to Deana Fisher, COO of St. Louis Center, the State of Michigan will most likely require institutions such as the St. Louis Center to have the CARF Accreditation very soon.

The CARF Accreditation is the standard that shows an organization has met conditions regarding CEO (Father Enzo Addari, SDC) involvement in the day to day operations, a team of staff members and board members who are very well aware of the daily operations, strategic thinking that leads to effective planning, safe and healthy environments for work and service provisions, effective fundraising efforts, a well-established accessibility plan, new opportunities for both aging and younger persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, warm, friendly and comfortable units for both work and living areas, and staff members that work well together.

CARF International, a group of companies that includes CARF Canada and CARF Europe is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services. Through accreditation, CARF assists service providers in improving the quality of their services, demonstrating value, and meeting internationally recognized organizational and program standards.

The process for obtaining a CARF Accreditation takes several months.  Normally, a service provider seeking CARF Accreditation will undertake a self-evaluation of their current standards and compare them with those of CARF. The provider will then initiate a program of change to meet CARF standards where necessary.

When a provider feels that it meets CARF standards, it can apply for accreditation. Candidates undergo a CARF review and must submit an application three-months before the date on which it wants the CARF on-site review or survey to take place.  CARF requires that providers have been meeting standards for a minimum of six months before the on-site survey takes place.

Accreditation is an ongoing process, signaling to the public that a service provider is committed to continuously improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community. Accreditation also demonstrates a provider’s commitment to enhance its performance, manage its risk, and distinguish its service delivery.

St. Louis Center has received its CARF Accreditation, which lasts for three years, every three years since 2006, which means they have successfully gone through the process four times.  After their most recent survey of St. Louis Center, the following is just part of what CARF had to say about the organization. “The CEO and COO provide excellent leadership to St. Louis Center.  The executive director is very competent, is closely involved in all aspects of the organization’s day to day operations and has     been able to develop a team of staff members who are also very well aware of its operations.  The organization is fortunate to have such an array of leadership staff members and steady guidance of an experienced and capable administration. St. Louis is characterized by strategic thinking that leads to effective strategic planning.  The community advisory board members are strongly involved in this process. St. Louis Center provides safe and healthy environments for work and service provisions.

The accessibility plan is very well conceived and could be used as a template for other organizations to follow.”

Further, the CARF assessment recognized “The organization provides new opportunities for both aging and younger persons with intellectual developmental disabilities.  Services are provided by a dedicated and carefully assigned staff of professionals who work with high values and quality as a guide.

St. Louis Center is complimented for the construction of several new homes to house the children currently receiving services.  These new units are spacious, beautifully designed, warm, home-like, and anticipated to enhance to quality of residential supports provided by the center.

St, Louis Center is complimented for its vision to develop comfortable, individualized, homelike and high-quality residential supports for persons with significant cognitive intellectual and other limitations.  The organization is committed to developing a community that provides safe, person-centered services.

CARF International was founded in 1966. We currently accredit more than 55,000 programs at more than 7,200 providers worldwide. 10.3 million people are served at CARF-accredited programs each year.

One has simply to walk to halls of St. Louis Center or tour the new homes in Guanella Village to see all the positivity in this organization.  The residents are happy and healthy and clearly involved in what happens on a day to day basis.  While construction of new homes is completed for 2018, plans to continue building houses are the works for 2019, with the ultimate plan being to build at least 20. “We will have our own intentional community,” reports Joe Yekulis, Public Relations Director for the center. The homes aren’t just for their residents either.  They plan on having a mix of residents with renters, so the community is much like it would be anywhere. Due to the location that the homes sit on, they cannot be sold.  However, they can be leased.

And while the current staff is satisfactory in the eyes of the CARF Accreditation team, they need employees. Those who are 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, can pass a drug test and a criminal background check can apply at the office, or online at https://www.stlouiscenter.org.  Those interested should have a passion for taking care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As COO Deana Fisher puts it, “It has to be in your heart.”

The residents of St. Louis Center certainly are busy.  The younger children, most of whom are in foster care, have school and/or therapy during the weekdays while the adults either have jobs they go to or are busy with programs such as helping to deliver Meals-on-Wheels. During evenings and weekends, residents are busy with such things as Chelsea High School Company C rehearsals or performances, working with Toys for Tots, therapeutic horseback riding, Special Olympics, or on any one of a number of activities offered to them. “They are very rarely bored,” states Yekulis.  The focus, he says, is on total wellness.

All of the wonderful programs, spacious new homes, and plans for the future do come with a price tag.  While St. Louis Center does fundraising year around to keep its doors open and provide the type of care and services they insist upon for their residents, it takes money.  Their 2017 Income just barely covered their expenses, leaving less than $60,000 in the coffers to carry over to 2018.

While the St. Louis Center does have some regular supporters that help them greatly with funding, they still must continually work at fundraising year-round to meet these goals.  It is an ongoing process that must be done in order to ensure the quality of life for the residents who need kindness, patience, and a personalized approach to navigating the world.

If you are part of an organization wishing to donate, please contact Joe Yekulis at 734-475-8430.  Individuals can go to their web site, at https://www.stlouiscenter.org , or you can mail a check or money order to: St. Louis Center, 16195 Old US 12, Chelsea, MI  48118.

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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