By Bill Kallestad, Vice President of Programs and Services at Lutheran Services in Iowa
This week, I returned to work at Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI), reinvigorated and re-energized after spending three days with colleagues and friends at the Lutheran Services in America-Disability Network’s (LSA-DN) Summer Meeting from August 7–9. When I agreed three years ago to serve as the Treasurer, then Convener of LSA-DN, I knew that I was committing to a lot of work on top of an already very full schedule at LSI. But I did so, knowing that LSA-DN is a unique network that has provided so much value to its member organizations, including LSI.
As a service provider, it can be easy to get lost in the everyday challenges of day-to-day operations, focusing on funding, staffing, reports and service delivery. Coming together with colleagues at events like LSA-DN gives us a chance to step back, to think about larger strategic issues, to focus on the need for public policy and advocacy, and to learn innovative new models and approaches. In fact, one of the highlights of LSA-DN’s summer meeting is that the various DN agencies take turns hosting it, giving us a chance to tour the organization and learn about their work.
Two years ago, we had the privilege of hosting the meeting here in Des Moines, Iowa. This year, our friends at KenCrest in Philadelphia pulled together a fantastic event that started with a Wednesday evening tour of three of their medical model homes located in Philadelphia. This is such valuable time to look into how different states tackle similar problems. I am excited to share the great work KenCrest is doing and evaluate how we can bring some of their practices to Iowa.
On Thursday and Friday, our group met together to think strategically about the quickly changing Medicaid landscape, outcome measures, and workforce retention and development. Thursday morning we had a dynamic presentation from Fady Sahhar of XtraGlobex and Stacy DiStefano of Inperium. They brought to the table new energy and unique perspectives that generated a good deal of discussion among our group. Two of our own LSA-DN members also gave updates on work that the Network has been doing around data and outcomes, and culture and engagement in the workplace. This generated a lengthy discussion among Network members about how we can build together on this work.
LSA-DN has long been a leader in the disability policy and advocacy world, so it was especially timely to have presentations from staff in two Congressional offices. Lea Senft (Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, PA-1) and Ebony Stanton Weidman (Sen. Bob Casey, PA) took time to give us the most cutting-edge update on legislative activity in the current Congress. It was refreshing to see how many of those efforts are bipartisan.
To be honest, my favorite part of any DN meeting is the chance we have to share and strategically learn from one another’s programs and initiatives. Sometimes this occurs in a formal member sharing session around technology where KenCrest shared their innovative programs, but much of it occurs in the downtime between sessions when we have a chance to network, chat, and really discuss things one on one. Over dinner, I was chatting with one of our new colleagues, Nate, from Aptiv. This was Nate’s first meeting and I shared with him that there isn’t a single thing we do at LSI that hasn’t been greatly influenced by our participation in LSA-DN. The DN truly covers it all, care initiatives, staff culture, and business strategies. I look forward to our continued work and our next meeting in Atlantic Beach, Florida in February.