Paragon Community Services is more than a day program that offers socialization and community outings for adults with disabilities—it’s a second home for many participants.
Whether it’s grooving to music at Summerfest, sampling treats at the Wisconsin State Fair, or simply browsing local malls, the emphasis is on fun during the adult day care program. When not out in the community, there are plenty of activities for participants at the spacious Paragon facility. Music therapy, exercise, cooking classes, board games, and birthday celebrations are part of the fabric of everyday life at Paragon, a My Choice Family Care provider located at 6251 W. Forest Home Avenue.
“It’s great for our participants to come here and forget about their day-to-day struggles for a while,” says David Carlson, Paragon’s program coordinator. “It’s a unique program with a lot of services, such as behavioral health management, life skills training, and different activities focused on building independence. We’re getting people out to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do if they were not enrolled in our program.”
Participant Marvin Currie says he enjoys the atmosphere at Paragon. He brings his own optimistic spin to the program by encouraging others with smiles and kind comments. “Words mean a lot,” he adds.
“It’s a great partnership with My Choice because we have the same goals and mission, and we know they are putting in the same amount of hard work to serve participants that we are.”
– David Carlson, Paragon Community Services
Eddie Cullin is a participant with a quick wit who is definitely a satisfied customer. “I have good friends here,” he says.
Both men are My Choice members who receive services such as transportation, help in finding appropriate housing, and more.
“One thing we’re really proud of is that we work with people who have a wide range of abilities. We welcome participants who need personal care, so no one is excluded from our program because they need more help,” Carlson said. “We’re trained and ready to work with an array of behaviors, including people who needs extra support.”
“The emphasis on helping individuals live the fullest, most independent life possible makes Paragon Community Services a great partner for us, one with a mission that dovetails ours,” said Maria Ledger, CEO of My Choice Family Care
Employment Is Also a Priority
There’s a focus on individual growth and development of goals through community-based employment at Paragon. Last year, Paragon added programs in Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Similar programs will be added soon in Green Bay and Milwaukee.
Paragon employs a job developer who calls on local businesses to educate them about the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities and exploring employment opportunities. “The jobs we develop are based on the needs of our participants,” says Derek Goodman, Paragon’s director of operations. He often finds smaller businesses more open to hiring because someone in their family may have a disability or they simply believe in the program. Goodman adds that the jobs all are in integrative settings, with participants working side-by-side with people who don’t have disabilities.
Twelve people now receive services ranging from job coaching to work experience. Goodman hopes to build a pre-employment program to teach participants soft skills such as social interaction and how to create a resume.
Coaches work one-on-one with a participant on the job and get trained alongside them so they can help the individual to develop employment skills. They also assist with social interactions and serve as the main contact for employers to help ensure successful employment outcomes. “The goal is to get the participant where they want to be in life, whether it’s part-time or full-time employment, so they can be more independent, improve their quality of life, and earn their own money so they’re not relying totally on benefits. Everything is very person-centered,” Goodman says.
“The emphasis on helping individuals live the fullest, most independent life possible makes Paragon Community Services a great partner for us, one with a mission that dovetails ours.”
– Maria Ledger, CEO of My Choice Family Care
The organization is receiving a grant through the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities to combine its adult day services with its community employment program so participants may be able to attend the day program some days of the week and be able to work on others. Once the program comes to Milwaukee County, My Choice plans to use Paragon as a provider for job coaching members.
Goodman says he is looking forward to working with My Choice Family Care in the future. “The partnership with My Choice is already strong, based on the adult day program,” Carlson says.
“It’s all about the participants, the people who are enrolled in My Choice, and us working cooperatively to offer services that benefit our members. It’s a great partnership because we have the same goals and mission, and we know they are putting in the same amount of hard work to serve participants that we are,” he says.
Paragon has been providing services for adults and children with disabilities for 30 years. “We really focus on person-centered care, and have a commitment to the community and to community involvement,” Carlson says.
Oconomowoc Residential Program (ORP) is the parent company of Paragon Community Services, which also has sites in Fort Atkinson, Plymouth, Union Grove, and Green Bay. ORP is the second-largest employee-owned company in Wisconsin.