Janice Morton, DSP Award Nominee: "When They Are Happy, I Am Happy"

Janice Morton, Program Counselor, Nominated For DirectCourse 2015 DSP Award!

The DirectCourse 2015 Direct Support Professional Award is given to someone who demonstrates the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Competency “Participant Empowerment”. He or she enhances the ability of the participant to lead a self-determining life by providing the support and information necessary to build self-esteem, and assertiveness; and to make decisions.  

Janice Morton, Program Counselor for Marrakech, used to be a Manager at one of the agency’s group homes, but found that she missed what she loved the most; the day to day support, encouragement and mentoring she was able to give the individuals she supported in order for them to become their own advocates. She also missed the smiles on their faces when they felt that empowerment.  So, for the last seven years, she has been working as a DSP (Direct Support Professional) for two gentlemen in their apartment in New Haven.  One of her goals with them is to help them “direct their own lives”, in her words, and one of the ways she nurtures that is to bring them to Marrakech’s monthly Self Advocacy Group and encourages them to speak for themselves about things that are important to them.

About four years ago, one of the gentlemen told Janice that he was tired from working at his job at the local grocery store and wanted to travel. He said he wanted to go somewhere fun, where there are lots of lights and action. Instead of taking on the attitude that this may be an impossible dream, Janice encouraged him, letting him know that he had every right to want, and to achieve that dream. She told him that it would take a lot of hard work, but that he could do it and she would support him. Janice told him he would have to speak to the right people for approval, and helped him to do that. When he received approval, he told Janice, “I’m going to go, and you’re going to go with me”!  

Janice figured that the best way to empower people is to give them the chance to be as independent as possible, encouraging them look at all of the options and then helping them narrow things down from there. With that in mind, she suggested he go to the travel agency and get brochures of all the places he would like to go. After doing that, she assisted him in narrowing the choices down to ten, and then three; based on the activities available, cost and how much money he thought he could save in that time period. After narrowing it down to three, he chose a final destination.

During the year, when he didn't feel like going to work and wanted to take a day off, she was there to remind him about his goal and to encourage him to take charge and be responsible. With her support, he was able to reach his goal and realize his dream of a vacation in New Orleans!  The smile on his face told Janice she had done the right thing. It has now become something of a tradition for him, and over the years he has saved enough money, planned and been on vacation to Las Vegas, as well as Myrtle Beach, NC!  

When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Janice answered, “It’s all about the guys and what makes them happy. I do what I do because it’s who I am. When they are happy, I am happy”.

Janice is known throughout Marrakech as someone who always puts her guys first. She works two jobs, six days a week. On her day off however, she often spends it doing things to help support Marrakech consumers, such as attending their Special Olympics sporting events. She knows it make them happy to see her there to watch them.  Heather LaTorra, Marrakech CEO says about Janice’s relationship with her consumers, “She’s not just like family to them, she IS their family”.  We are proud to have Janice as a part of the Marrakech family and congratulate her on this nomination! 


Program Counselor Greg Brown Impresses Many With His Smile and Dedication!

Program Counselor for the
Supportive Living Services Program, Greg Brown 
was one of three nominees from Marrakech for
ANCOR's 2015 DSP Recognition Award!
This national, annual award recognizes the best of the Direct Support Professional workforce and, at the same time, raises awareness of the devotion, professionalism and quality supports DSPs provide in their daily work. Most people are not aware of the vital role DSPs play in their communities; and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)'s National Advocacy Campaign is out to change that.
We congratulate Greg and thank him for his dedication and the awesome job he is doing with the folks he supports at Marrakech!  It is clear to us how much he has had a positive effect on them over the 18 years he has been a part of the Marrakech family!
Here is information from Greg’s nomination:
What are some of the activity/accomplishments Greg has done to assist the individuals supported to achieve person-centered positive outcomes?  
Living in downtown New Haven was a challenge for KH who lives with some physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair.  In the 18 years Greg has worked with KH, he has helped him to become more self-sufficient so he is able to venture out in his community more independently.  Greg worked with KH over and over, practicing and teaching him how to push the crosswalk button so that he could cross the street safely to go to the corner store for milk. He was consistent in encouraging him to propel himself in the wheelchair, where KH used to wait for his staff to push him everywhere.  When he would purchases an item at a store, Greg taught him to count out his change to make sure that he received the correct amount back.  KH says that he would not be the same man if he didn’t have Greg.
Describe the relationships Greg has developed with the people he supports.
Greg has worked with KH and DF for 18 years.  In those years he has impressed many managers with his advocacy, support and compassion with the individuals he works with, that many times over the years he has been offered management positions as they have come up in the agency. Greg has considered the promotion because the financial increase would improve his life, however, what he gains from his relationships with DF and KH have always outweighed the financial gain and he has turned the offers down. Working with the individuals has always been more important to him.  KH says, “He is like my brother. He’s always happy and always grinning and makes me happy. You got the whole thing right there…he makes me happy”.
What are some examples of how Greg has advocated or affected change with and/or on behalf of people with disabilities?
KH distanced himself from family over the years because he felt they were taking advantage of him. He is proud to be his own legal guardian. Recently, a family member began calling him repeatedly, requesting a key to his apartment, telling him that he was unable to care for himself and threatening to take him to court to become his guardian.  KH became agitated with the calls and told the supervisor of the program. The next day, he called back; “You don’t need to worry about it”, he said “Greg took care of it”.  Greg was very upset with the situation, too. “I can’t let anyone upset him like that”, Greg said. “He has high blood pressure and it’s dangerous.  I got on the phone and told them; he is doing great and they need to respect his wishes and stop harassing him”.  KH has not heard back from them. 
Describe some of the sacrifices Greg has made in order to be a Direct Support Professional.  
Not only has Greg sacrificed by turning down promotions, but he also is determined to do whatever necessary to make sure that KH and DF are safe and happy. Once there was a bad snowstorm and when the regular staff was not able to get in, Greg was asked if he could work the shift. Greg was also snowed in and unable to get his car out of his driveway. When he learned that there was no one else to go in, he figured it out. He bundled up, walked five blocks in the snow to catch a bus, and walked the rest of the way in the snow to their apartment so that they were not alone. He often changes his schedule based on what the guys want to do for activities, and stays past his shift many times so that they would not have to leave activities early.
What are some examples of the creativity Greg has shown in individualizing supports and services provided?  
KH loves all things hunting and fishing.  He has his own fishing pole and owns a rifle. Greg was able to find a place to take KH to fish that was accessible, but because KH uses a wheelchair, he was never able to go to the shooting range. Greg, although he’s petrified of guns, worked to find a place that accommodated KH’s wheelchair, and arranged for an expert to meet with Greg and KH to supervise and ensure safety and compliance before he shot. Greg also found someone who had a subscription to hunting and fishing magazine and arranged for KH to receive each magazine after they had been read because he knew it was KH’s passion.  When he learned that another employee had venison in their freezer, he encouraged them to donate some to KH because he knew how much it would mean to KH to have some.
Select one tenet of the NADSP Code of Ethics and show how Greg exemplifies the chosen ethic.  
Anyone who knows Greg would say he exemplifies all of these tenets of the Code, but they would also all say the “person-centered support” tenet of the code is what Greg is all about.  One manager said that she thought Greg invented the practice, since that is what he has provided and personified since day one, eighteen years ago.  KH says that Greg asks him what he wants to do, doesn’t tell him, except “somehow he gets me to eat my vegetables”! Greg is very modest about this because he says it’s not a choice that he consciously makes; it just is the way it needs to be. It’s why he’s here. It’s what he does. He says that he just helps the individuals make their way of living more comfortable, safe and happy for them. That’s it.
Each nomination should also include an affirmation letter or statement from the person(s) served and/or a family member.
Letter of support for Greg Brown, dictated by one of the individuals he supports.
My name is DF and Greg has worked with me and my roommate KH for a long time. He is important to me because sometimes we do things that are fun, interesting and different and we work together to improve my quality and well being of life. Greg takes his time to explain things that are important in my life that I want to work on and improve. Greg has fixed many meals that are healthy for my dietary needs… I am a diabetic.  If other people saw what food he makes me that they would also want it too! Greg sometimes gives me good tips on some areas to improve my way of living and for that I am grateful.  He is very important to me.  As long as I have known Greg there has been nobody that could ever replace him.



Mike Luongo, Employment Specialist Continues To Touch Many Lives

Mike Luongo, Employment Specialist
at the Island Lane Day Program
was one of three nominees from Marrakech for 
ANCOR's 2015 DSP Recognition Award!

This national, annual award recognizes the best of the Direct Support Professional workforce and, at the same time, raises awareness of the devotion, professionalism and quality supports DSPs provide in their daily work. Most people are not aware of the vital role DSPs play in their communities; and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)'s National Advocasy Campaign is out to change that.

We congratulate Mike and thank him for the amazing job he is doing with the folks he supports at Marrakech! They are clearly as special to him as he is to them! We are honored to have had him as a part of the Marrakech family for over 22 years!  

Here is information from Mike's nomination:

What are some of the activities and accomplishments Mike has shown in assisting the individuals in achieving person-centered positive outcomes?  

18 years ago, Mike’s keen eye and character changed the life of AC. Mike noticed that AC, who he knew from a previous position at the day program, was eating lunch alone frequently, not interacting with anyone and looking sad.  AC had been inappropriately placed with a group of higher functioning individuals with whom he could not relate.  Knowing that AC knew the folks in his current group, Mike got permission and invited AC to join them in an activity one day. AC entered the room his eyes lit up as he began immediately interacting with the others. When he realized the difference in AC's demeanor, Mike knew he could never let him go back. AC has become the “helper” to one of the women in the group who often needs assistance and a friend to the rest. This has given AC purpose, importance and a place to belong.  

Description of the relationships Mike has developed with the people he supports.

While working with them for 22 years, Mike has built a connection with every individual in his group, and they are like family to him. They count on him and know he will be there for them. They are also there for Mike, giving him something to smile about every day. On the rare day when Mike takes a day off, however, one of the individuals actually refuses to go to day program! Mike knows each of the folks so well, and they know him so well, even down to the music they each enjoy. He noticed how music calmed and quieted the group, so he created a play list for each person on his personal ipod, and he rotates the playlists so everyone gets a turn to have “their” music played. They learned to respect each other’s tastes and look forward to their turn, which makes them feel special.

Examples of how Mike has advocated or affected change with and/or on behalf of people with disabilities.  

It has been important to Mike over the years that everyone in the community understands and accepts the folks he works with and that everyone treats them equally.  Years ago, when he was responsible for finding employment in the community for his group, he worked hard at developing relationships with companies and encouraged the management to get to know each person so they became invested in them. This worked so well that it resulted in an education and mind shift for many employers. One business owner, after employing his group and getting to know them well, ended up inviting the group to his family picnic that summer. He introduced them to everyone there and they all had a great time. He approached Mike afterwards and told him that he never knew he and his company would get so much out of the experience he gained out of their employment.   

Description of the sacrifices Mike has made in order to be a Direct Support Professional.  

It is important to Mike that he support each individual in his group to feel that they are important and that they matter, even if it means that he sacrifice his own money to do so. For each of their birthdays, he purchases and brings in a cake and birthday treats so that they are able to have a celebration on their special day. He has also been known to host individuals at his home for holidays when they did not have a special place to go. Once, upon learning that one of the individuals in his group, a woman who’s favorite thing to do is listen to music, didn’t have a stereo at her home, he brought one in from his own home to give her and also included a bunch of CD’s that he made for her on his own time by her favorite musical artist.   

What are some examples of creativity Mike has shown in individualizing supports and services provided?

When Mike was a Job Coach, one of the individuals in his group, VM, was having a difficult time maintaining employment because of behaviors she was displaying.  No other Job Coach was able to get her to work.  “It was so bad,” his former supervisor said, “She would lie down and outright refuse to leave the building.”  Mike knew he had to get creative.  He understood VM and recognized what motivated her and what she needed, so he began to build up her confidence by complimenting her on her clothing and on the crafts she would make and bring in. He used his sense of humor to make her laugh and feel important, and encouraged her by telling her what a great job she was doing by staying on task. She was then able to begin a job, which turned out to be the longest job she ever held.

Select one tenet of the NADSP Code of Ethics and show how Mike exemplifies the chosen ethic.

Every day there is evidence that Mike understands and embodies each tenet of the Code, and helping the people develop and maintain relationships is just one. VM was having a problem this past Thanksgiving. Her brother, with whom she has a close relationship, was expecting her to come to his home for the holiday, as she has every other year. VM, however, was torn because she overheard all of the planning in the weeks approaching the holiday and wanted to spend the holiday at her Group Home with her peers for a change. She was afraid of her brother’s reaction and didn’t know how to approach it.  Mike worked with her to understand that if she was honest with him and talked to him about it, her brother would understand. She was able to get her wish while maintaining the relationship with her brother. 

Each nomination should also include an affirmation letter or statement from the person(s) served and/or a family member

To Whom It May Concern,

It is a pleasure to say that I have known Michael Luongo for well over ten years.  During this time, Michael has been the job coach for two of my consumers, one of whom he continues to work with on a daily basis.   I cannot count the number of days he was an angel in disguise.  One of my consumers, BO, has unfortunately had her share of “not so great” days, and it seemed that no matter how distressed she may have been in the morning, the minute Michael pulled into the driveway she underwent a major transformation.  Whereas we were experiencing non-stop complaints or a barrage of tears, Michael always got the infamous “BO smile”, with many mornings a dance to go with it!  

Many of the staff, myself included, would try to convince him that he should come work for our agency, more specifically with BO, for he had such a positive effect on her behavior.  Needless to say, we didn’t win that argument, though BO did, for she had been given the opportunity to work with Michael all of these years at her vocational site.  The only time we ever encountered a problem was when Michael felt the need to take a vacation.  How we so dreaded those days, for we knew this was not going to sit well with BO.  I realize this was a small price to pay.  Knowing that she was well taken care of and not only enjoyed, but actually looked forward to going off to work and interacting with Michael made those long days pass quickly.

I must say that I have never seen Michael without a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone he encountered.  He even won the hearts of the other consumers in the home, and they always shared with him their day’s events when he brought BO home.  Though I no longer have the opportunity to see Michael due to a change in the transportation system, I think of his smile often.  

I cannot think of anyone who deserves such an honor more than him. His dedication and concern for those that he serves goes beyond what most can ever imagine.   This truly has been his life’s calling and for all of the consumers he has worked with, I am sure their world is a better place for having him in it.  I know firsthand how he positively impacted the life of BO and how much she cares for him.  For this, I could never thank him enough.

Susan Marcell
Program Coordinator
Institute of Professional Practice