Improving Support, Increasing Outcomes: The Ideal Programs Services Way
There are nearly 65,000 nonprofits in Los Angeles County, but only one, Ideal Program Services, Inc., is leading the way in helping their consumers (trainees) see results. Led by the fearless and caring CEO, Madam Lara Okunubi, and supported by a staff of nearly 70 dedicated Direct Support Professionals (trainers), Ideal Program Services is changing the lives of adults with diverse functionality capacities. When asked about the mission, Okunubi informed Suite Life SoCal that “listening, caring, and supporting” is pivotal for the agency. This mission is backed by their philosophy, “When support improves, outcomes will increase.”
Okunubi assured me that she did not pull the philosophy out of her brilliant mind; in its development, the agency ran into this truth when committing to its mission of listening, caring, and supporting. Okunubi shared the story of a trainee who, for five years, did not communicate with words. She thought the trainee was non-verbal. One day, one of the dedicated staff members who had intentionally worked with this individual said, “Say good morning, Ms. Lara.” The trainee responded accordingly. Okunubi had to do a double take and double back to acknowledge the trainee’s speaking ability. According to Okunubi, “That was a defining moment. That’s where the company philosophy came from.”
Since that day, labels have ceased, and being intentional about what to call consumers, staff, and services has been given greater attention. The trainers are taught to ensure the agency focuses on equality and equity. “We focus on person-centered support and services. We do a very organic assessment of needs,” Okunubi explained.
The agency's assessment findings revealed the needs are primarily social since many clients live with elderly parents or other aging family members. “They don’t have the energy to get the client around socially,” Okunubi emphasized.
The assessment of needs steers the services provided. There are different segments of services to help trainees have an effective quality of life. Okunubi has seen success in its employment preparation services. She shared the story of the gentleman hired at Walgreens, and in 3 months, he was the employee of the month. Months later, he became a cashier and is still employed at Walgreens.
Okunubi gives the credit for this type of success to her dedicated staff. Her staff comprises some trainers with more than 15 and 20 years of committed service to the agency and its trainees. Through its independent living, supportive living, employment preparation, and behavior modification programs, the lives of adults with diverse functionality capabilities are being fulfilled.
Funded partly by the Federal government waivers, the Department of Developmental Services, and The Regional Center; Ideal Program Services Inc. is in its 31st year. “My husband started the organization. I was in the back doing accounting. Sadly in 2007, he passed, but God sent some divine helpers whose guidance and commitment sustained us. I must admit, it was scary at first" Okunubi shared. This was a new territory for me, encouraged by the dedication of some key staff, parents, cooperative Service Coordinators and my daughter joining the leadership team we have triumphed.”
As the team grows, the legacy Mr. Okunubi left doesn’t show signs of fading. “The person-centered philosophy that we practice supports our commitment to conducting environmental and service assessments and using the analysis to guide all organization planning and action. This process also helps us to recognize organizational competencies, identify opportunities and threats, and articulate a high-level plan to sustain and advance our mission. Most important is the input of individuals served and other stakeholders, so as we continue to listen to them, we are observing and hearing other emerging needs that they perceive will result in better life outcomes, such as Affordable Housing.”
Okunubi adds, “The pursuit of providing housing as part of the impact areas of service is a daunting and exciting task. Individuals with diverse challenges are also facing a housing crisis, but not many resources are devoted to this demographic. We have land that can accommodate a 70-unit multi-use building, but if we don’t get access to adequate federal and state grants, affordability cannot be attained. Charging the market rate for such housing will defeat the purpose of meeting the housing dreams of adults with DD. We need support and resources to facilitate this housing project for adults with diverse needs.”
Ideal Program Services, Inc. is the place if you know an adult with diverse functionality capabilities needing a program to assist them in having a fulfilled life without limitations. An enthusiastic, competent, and caring staff awaits you. For more information, visit IdealProgramsServices.org.