Maintaining high standards of care is crucial in the world of residential services for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). Independent Living Association (ILA), a nonprofit organization serving Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, recently achieved a perfect audit score for its Fort Hamilton Residence.
This accomplishment is a testament to ILA’s dedication to safety and high quality care. In this article, we will explore the tips and strategies used by ILA’s staff to achieve success, offering insights into how other organizations can maintain the highest standards of care.
ILA’s Fort Hamilton Residence (exterior)
What is an Audit, and How Does it Work?
Audits are conducted by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to evaluate an agency’s compliance with regulations and guidelines. The audit is scored according to how many deficiencies an agency has.
According to ILA Area Coordinator Nikiesha Bucknor, auditors can show up at any time so it’s important to always collaborate with your staff to ensure you are meeting all of your marks.
Tips and Strategies for a Successful Audit
Nikiesha has developed a variety of strategies to prepare for audits and achieve a successful outcome. Some of these strategies include re-training staff if necessary, emphasizing nursing/clinical issues pertaining to any allergies or medications, and conducting quarterly reviews of documentation to ensure ledgers are correct. Management also conducts breakfast observations to make sure meals run smoothly and that staff provides choices to Individuals in addition to making any necessary food substitutions.
Nikiesha adds, “Area Coordinators also check that all medical appointments are kept, that residence fire drills are conducted on a monthly basis, and that there is ample storage space for Individuals’ ‘change-over clothing’ as seasons change.” A clothing inventory is also conducted to determine if Individuals need new clothes.
Shenee Briggs, an ILA Area Coordinator and former Supervisor at Fort Hamilton, emphasizes that preparation is key. “To be audit-ready, you have to stay audit-ready,” she says. Like Nikiesha, Shenee recommends keeping all of your books up-to-date and ramping up morning observations with colleagues to provide a pair of fresh eyes to assess the residence. “Audits start in the morning so if everything is in place, that is an amazing way to start an audit,” Shenee points out.
Perhaps most importantly, she says, “Have your audit clothes ready!” Shenee owns a go-to outfit that she keeps nearby in the event of an audit. She explains, “Preparation starts at home; that way you’re not scrambling when you get the early morning call from your staff that the auditors have arrived.”
How Auditors Evaluate Residential Services
Auditors evaluate various aspects of the residence. According to Shenee, “the audit starts outside the door.” Auditors observe the upkeep of the facilities, how staff engage with Individuals, and how meals are being prepared. Shenee stresses the importance of organization and consistency in ensuring a successful audit.
Strategies for Maintaining High Standards
ILA’s staff also shared tips for maintaining high standards of care that go beyond preparing for an audit. Fort Hamilton Supervisor Shante Campbell credits ILA’s amazing structure and teamwork for audit success and continued excellence across the Agency. She reminds her team to keep all documentation up-to-date, especially when it comes to Individuals’ life plans and medical information.
As she oversees 16 staff and 10 Individuals at Fort Hamilton, Shante always maintains an open door policy to keep communication and operations flowing so Individuals continue to thrive. She explains, “When families see you are on top of things, they know the house is being run as it should and that their loved ones are in good hands.”
“ILA standards are extremely high. What we are required to do is tremendous. We have to support each other to ensure the Agency meets its mission of providing the highest quality care to Individuals.”
-Shenee Briggs, ILA Area Coordinator
When a residence achieves a successful audit, ILA recognizes the hard work and dedication of staff by organizing a special staff meeting with food and refreshments. And you can definitely expect a glowing email to be distributed Agency-wide, which is what Nikiesha proudly did to announce Fort Hamilton’s perfect audit. “Having worked at ILA since 2007, I’ve seen many perfect scores, and I’m sure I’ll see many more at the Agency, thanks to our outstanding employees. Congratulations to Shante, Shenee, Assistant Supervisor Tiffany Pugh, and the entire Fort Hamilton team on their excellent achievement!”