Designed to provide "independent advancement" to individuals with mental retardation or developmental disabilities, Kaleidoscope can assist with skill-building, self-advocacy and job preparation.
Dr. Tom Ford, CEO of Lookout Mountain Community Services, praised the new collaboration and credited its future success to the dedication of both its staff and its consumers.
"We are going to pull together the brainpower and the brain trust of two agencies," both of which have top-notch staff and are already successful in their own right, he said.
The services provided by Kaleidoscope are not new; they have been made available for decades through Lookout Mountain Community Services, Highland Rivers Health, and other organizations. The collaborative effort and breadth of the available assistance, however, is new, and was therefore judged to be deserving of a unique name.
The name Kaleidoscope, Ford explained, came out of a desire to showcase the individuality of each person the program hopes to serve.
"Just like a kaleidoscope, when you look in there and turn it, it's different," he said. "The name represents the differences of each individual."
In keeping with this theme, the program does not have a set regimen or style, or even a central location.
"Kaleidoscope is a program, not a place," said Ford. Instead, services are tailored individually to each person's needs and desires, and can be offered wherever and however it is needed.
"It's about coming up with something unique for each individual," he said.
Some consumers, for instance, may need more support with day-to-day tasks and life skills development. Others may want to learn how to build lasting relationships and be more socially involved in the community. Additionally, some consumers might be more focused on pre-employment training and advice, as many from Lookout Mountain Community Services have already begun to work in the larger Walker County community; many more still hope to do so as opportunities become available.
One of the many partners that Lookout Mountain Community Services, and now Kaleidoscope, has had in the past is the Old Mill Kettle Corn company, located in Chickamauga. The company, which sells its products out of the Old Mill General Store, has employed a number of the program's consumers, who now single-handedly man the store most days. Until that employment opportunity was made available in the summer of 2012, the Old Mill General Store had been closed for some time due to a scarcity of employees. The collaboration of Kaleidoscope consumers and local businesses has already proven to be an asset to both.
Additional businesses where Kaleidoscope members are employed include Chartwell's at Covenant College, Walgreens, Roper, and the mobile cleaning crew at the LaFayette library. Talks with more employers are currently in the works.
In addition to selling Old Mill Kettle Corn at the general store, many handmade crafts constructed by Kaleidoscope consumers are available to the public as well. In fact, Becky Clark, supported employment specialist with Lookout Mountain Community Services, hopes to bolster the artistic side of many of Kaleidoscope's consumers and find a place in which to make, display and sell crafts and ceramics.
Walker County commissioner Bebe Heiskell praised the formal christening of Kaleidoscope and remarked at how far community services had come in the past fifty years; what was once The Arc and eventually became Lookout Mountain Community Services has been through many iterations and names in the past, and yet, those organizations' services and programs especially set aside for those with mental retardation and developmental disabilities had never been formally named until now.
"You've got a wonderful new name and a wonderful new opportunity," said Heiskell.
To find out more about Kaleidoscope, Lookout Mountain Community Services, Highland River Health, or any other mental health or mental retardation services available locally, contact the Region 1 Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at 706-802-5727.
To be eligible for the Kaleidoscope program, one must:
· Have mental retardation since birth or before age 18, or another developmental disability since birth or before age 22, which requires similar services to those needed by people with mental retardation.
· Be at risk for going into an institution for people with mental retardation if you do not get the services you need in your community.
To apply to the Kaleidoscope program:
· You will need to complete an application and an initial screening through the Intake & Evaluation Office of Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) to determine eligibility of services. Visit dbhdd.georgia.gov/accessing-services or call the Region 1 office at 706-802-5272.