By Kelly Kass, Contributing Writer
For ILA’s residences to operate smoothly, there are many moving parts.
Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide nurturing care to ILA’s Individuals and cooks prepare healthy meals for Individuals to enjoy. Nurses, Behavior Intervention Specialists and other clinicians visit residences to provide clinical support, and ILA’s Quality Assurance and Compliance teams always ensure that the Agency meets all city, state, and federal regulations. Whether staff are on the front lines or behind-the-scenes, it truly is a collaborative effort to keep residences running smoothly.
Staying Connected Safely
ILA’s IT Director Steven Bonici is the Agency’s go-to person for all things technical. Steven manages the day-to-day technology needs that arise while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. He explains, “My goal is to make sure that ILA is always connected and moving in the right direction, so one of my biggest priorities is ensuring that all hardware, servers, and applications are up-to-date.”
Security is also high on the list of priorities. All ILA locations – residences, Day Hab Programs, and administrative offices – have firewalls and their own networks. ILA also implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA). To successfully access the ILA network on their mobile devices or at any workstation, staff are required to enter a six-digit code sent to their email address or choose a series of security questions to answer.
For Individuals who wish to use a computer or tablet at a residence, ILA provides Internet access to Individuals via their own network, installed separately from the Agency’s primary server for security purposes. Steven also helps to oversee cable installation so Individuals can watch their favorite programs. For holiday parties and other events, photo slide shows are played on television monitors, which can also display pertinent Agency information when needed.
All residences are set-up with offices where supervisors and other staff can perform administrative tasks. Steven says, “I support staff with any IT issues that occur with copiers, printers, and other machines – either in person or I connect remotely.” He also works closely with Verizon, Spectrum, and Optimum to make sure phone, Internet, and cable access remain seamless. Recently, Steven helped the Agency successfully transition to a new phone system, providing frequent emails to update staff and guide them through the process.
To make sure staff continue to stay up-to-date with technology, Steven often provides IT training. “Technology is all around us. It’s important that everyone understands how to use it so they can use the tools that ILA provides to keep communication flowing at the Agency,” he points out.
In addition, ILA utilizes a leading cyber security agency that provides training once a month, which staff are encouraged to attend. Participants learn about phishing and other red flags to look out for in their daily communications.
“When it comes to potential security risks, staff have a role to play,” Steven says. That also includes monitoring security footage – nearly every ILA residence is equipped with a camera. “If you see something, say something,” Steven says.
For Area Coordinator Omar James, maintaining sufficient staffing is the key to ILA’s residences operating successfully. “Providing the necessary amount of staff has been crucial to ensure that our Individuals continue to receive high quality care, especially during the pandemic,” he points out.
Omar proudly recalls the way residences banded together during the dark and uncertain time. “Managers stepped into direct care roles while overseeing the daily operations of their houses,” he explains. “Their excellent leadership set the precedent – it didn’t matter if you were a supervisor or a coordinator, it was all hands on deck because we’re all DSPs at heart. Individuals’ safety will always be our top priority,” Omar says.
Omar credits ILA’s Human Resources Department for a stellar recruitment effort, which has helped to combat recent staffing shortages. “Holding job fairs and promoting them on social media has been a great way to attract and hire more permanent staff, lessening the need to use a temp agency,” Omar points out.
ILA’s Maintenance staff also play an important role around the residences. “We work with Maintenance (as well as families) to make sure our houses are personalized and tailored to Individuals’ liking while meeting every safety requirement,” Omar points out.
When it comes to change of seasons, Area Coordinators, Supervisors, and Maintenance teams are fully prepared for the transition. Boilers and snow plows are inspected before winter hits. Driveways and sidewalks are regularly cleared of any snow or ice.
These days, ILA staff (and residents!) are prepping gazebos and backyards to get them ready for spring and summer fun! DSPs are working together to make sure changeover clothing is all in place so Individuals can dress appropriately for the warm weather season.
As the weather continues to improve, recreational outings are in full swing at ILA. Residence staff distribute funds to Individuals so they can enjoy community inclusion activities, such as trips to local restaurants and shopping centers. Staff also make sure that houses are equipped with hand-held food processors so DSPs can puree food for Individuals while they’re dining out in the community. “Our staff are trained to ensure restaurants can serve appropriately; that way, all Individuals can dine safely and feel included no matter what their dietary needs are,” Omar says.
Whatever the activity, whatever the task, one thing is certain – teamwork is essential. “At ILA, it’s a group effort,” Omar explains. “We all work proactively to make things happen and keep our residences running.”
For more information on ILA’s Residential Services, visit https://ilaonline.org/services.