Tri-Valley expands presence here

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March 6, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Tri-Valley Developmental Services personnel took advantage of an open house Thursday at their new Iola quarters, 10 W. Jackson Ave., to tell about advantages of the move and also lament cuts in state funding.
First the good news.
For several years Tri-Valley has been in a small office in the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce building, 208 W. Madison. Rent was $400 a month and the office provided space only for Jim Jesseph, residential coordinator, and his assistant, Kourtney Melendez. Each day 20 clients from the Iola area were bused to Chanute for work projects, life-enrichment classes, art therapy and other activities.
The move on Feb. 10 gave Tri-Valley the space to provide such services here.
Its new location, formerly Embassy Shoe Rebuilders, was purchased last year by Iolan David Toland and underwent an extensive remodel.
Rent increased to $1,600 a month.
Bill Fiscus, TVDS’s associate director, thinks it’s a good financial tradeoff. He noted substantial money will be saved on transportation costs and Tri-Valley’s presence in Iola has been expanded several times over.

LIFE-ENRICHMENT classes have a twofold purpose.
Clients, who suffer from developmental challenges, are tutored in daily living skills, including safety and how to deal with emergencies, and they have an opportunity to immerse themselves in something they enjoy. They also pay attention to the world around them, which recently led to a group project to collect things to help victims of the Haitian earthquake.
A new activity TVDS intends to begin is a greenhouse and garden project.
“We’ve had that in Fort Scott with a horticultural therapist and it’s worked well,” said Anna Methvin, public relations director.
She said Tri-Valley would ask Iola commissioners for permission to have clients use the pocket park between City Hall and their new office to hone their gardening skills.
Most of the 20 clients who come daily to the Iola center live in Iola, including four in a TVDS group home built with funding from the Friends of Tri-Valley Foundation. Others come from LaHarpe, Gas and Yates Center.
Clients will earn money here making concrete stepping stones and garden edging, and from a greeting card business Tri-Valley started last year.
Kris Aikins, director of day services, said equipment used to make the stepping stones and edging would be moved from Chanute to Iola later this month. The stepping stones, sold for $10 each, may be purchased as is or customized.
The greeting card program is a spinoff of Tri-Valley’s art therapy classes.
Clients design cards, which are printed in bulk and offered as packages of 10 with five different scenes for $5 per bundle. More than 1,000 were sold for Christmas. At the Chamber’s Business Expo in January, 80 sets were sold.

IF NOT FOR cuts, many more clients could be served.
In the past year the Kansas Legislature has cut TVDS’s funding by $330,000, including $121,000 of $320,000 anticipated for this year from the state general fund and $209,000 from $4.18 million allocated for Medicaid payments that are a 60-40 federal-state split. Tri-Valley’s budget for this year was $5.363 million before the cuts.
During the past four years, Tri-Valley’s staff has been cut by 54, including 21 in the past year, to today’s 152.
Staff reductions have been done through attrition, Fiscus said. “So far we haven’t had to terminate anyone,” he said.
Tri-Valley has 150 clients and 74 more on a waiting list. Statewide, 4,000 people eligible for developmental services are on waiting lists. Client services are long-term; some individuals have been with Tri-Valley since its inception 36 years ago.
Due to the tight budget, “we haven’t added a client in our four counties — Allen, Neosho, Bourbon and Woodson — in the past two years and it appears we probably won’t for another two years,” Fiscus said.
The tragedy, Fiscus said, is that legislators don’t seem to understand that offering developmental services is a natural progression of special education services students receive while they are in public schools.

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