ST. GEORGE — Outgrowing their last St. George facility, RISE Opportunity Center recently moved into their new spacious digs on South Mall.
RISE, an innovative human services network established in 1987 to help the developmentally disabled, was originally designed to move mentally disabled individuals living in institutions into family settings. Now, with more than 25 facilities in Utah, Arizona, Texas, and Oregon, the organization has grown to support children, adults and families through various programs.
“Our primary responsibility is to provide people with disabilities the chance to be included,” said Stephanie Jernagin, RISE, community outreach director. “We also provide opportunities to be in a loving environment.”
Many times, parents of children with disabilities don’t realize the challenges their children face as they grow up. The hard fact, Jernagin said, is that eventually parents pass away and if provisions for care are not made the challenges become harder.
This is where RISE comes into the picture.
Among the many services RISE offers at its Utah centers are day services that foster individual passions through guidance from trained staff. Day services programs have many purposes, ranging from helping adults develop skills they could use at work to finding creative hobbies or talents which they can use to express who they are and what they care about.
“Day services allow people to get out of the house, and have activities and engagement, creating social connections,” Jernagin said.
Other services include employment programs that help adults with developmental disabilities search for appropriate, meaningful work, resume creation, prepare for interviews and on-the-job-coaching.
“They will earn income just like anyone else,” Jernagin.
The benefit is for the developmentally disabled who age-out of state and federally-funded programs such as foster care to be able to provide for themselves.
“We provide that segway from (governmental) programs,” Jernagin said. “It’s a continuum of services, support and inclusion.”
There are also incentives available for employers who want to hire, train and employ those RISE helps.
The on-the-job training program will reimburse up to half of the wages during the first six months of employment to offset the extra costs to train an adult with disabilities.
There are also tax credits available. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit and Targeted Tax Credit offers yearly tax credits to employers who hire people with developmental disabilities.
RISE also offers opportunities for adults willing to provide care for those with special needs.
“Right now, we have a huge need for professional parents,” Jernagin said. “These are people who are willing to take someone in their home and provide them with a loving safe environment.”
Professional parents are licensed and receive extensive scheduled and annual training to keep their behavioral and therapeutic skill set sharp.
For people who may not want to provide 24-hour care, Jernagin added, RISE can provide trained professionals who can assist with temporary care while full-time caregivers such as parents and grandparents get some time to themselves.
RISE employees are a mix of volunteers and paid staff. Currently, they provide services to more than 50 people, but this number is on the rise.
“With more clients, we can look for more funding and offer more programs … such as an afterschool program,” said Michelle Schnabel, RISE professional parent coordinator. “In this business, we assess needs and if there is a need we start branching out to solve the need. With our larger building, we can branch out and do more.”
Along with providing care for its disabled population, RISE also conducts workshops for St. George residents and community leaders to help them understand and learn about the needs in Southern Utah.
Mental health care professionals realize that one of the biggest challenges in their job is not dealing with the developmentally disabled, but with able-body people who will often look through or past people who are different.
“If someone wakes up and has breath, they are able to do something,” Jernagin said. “This ability allows a joy or an exchange to happen. These are people too. They have feelings like anyone else, and they can express these feelings.
To Jernagin, we are all our brother’s keeper.
For more information about RISE, call 435-673-1108.
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