Innovative Services' Rick Bahr Discusses Rural Residential Living Community

We had the opportunity to sit down with Innovative Services' Chief Operating Officer Rick Bahr to discuss an exciting new program that shows how SimplyHome technology combined with a dedicated caregiving staff can help disabled people find independence and meaningful work. You may have read SimplyHome VP Drue Ray's article about her dream of The Farm--a rural residential community for people with special needs. Mr. Bahr helped make this dream a reality.

About two weeks ago, Innovative Services received news that their proposal for a rural, agricultural-vocational residential program had been approved by grantors to move on to the planning stages. It was an idea at least four years in the works, and Rick Bahr was thrilled to finally see it begin to take shape.

"With our growth in central Wisconsin, our referrals had begun to request ways to meet our clients' needs in a more cost-effective way," Mr. Bahr said.

We wanted to combine concepts of a high-needs residential program with agricultural and vocational work."

The program will likely house about eight special-needs individuals in a series of duplexes that allow independent living with the comfort of a trained caregiving staff seconds away.

Although farm living communities are not a new concept, Mr. Bahr hopes that by combining a specialized program with advanced assisted living technology, this project will be a model for replication around the country.

"Providing support for individuals with high-intense needs can cost up to $2,500 a day, which translates to about $1 million annually," he says. "We can reduce cost and increase an individual's independence from staff agitation while reducing the cost with technology."

It's based upon the interest of [special needs] people to choose a service different from the offerings that have been always been provided."

Mr. Bahr added that the program is consistent with the idea that all people--regardless of ability--should have the opportunity to find meaningful work and live as independently as possible.

"If you have a staff person with you 24 hours a day, that is not independence no matter where you live," he says. "This will be an environment with staff support, yes, but they won't always be with the people in their homes."

SimplyHome's assisted living technology will play a big role in the program as well.

"SimplyHome's system creates a cost-effective residential environment--it makes the entire program achievable," he adds.

The SimplyHome technology will help the individuals enjoy greater independence, he says.

"The technology allows us to have adequate supports in place without having to have a person in the home 24 hours a day. Staff can respond within seconds if need be, but the technology creates significant efficiencies in staff without impacting the level of independence for people in their homes."

Bahr said that the community program is slated to begin on November 1, 2011. Planners are still looking for the right piece of land and designing the various buildings.

When finished, the residents will move in and begin work that brings them back to the land.

"A regular day will be gardening produce, learning car restoration and mechanical skills, cutting wood, and doing all types of labor that's associated with living on a farm," Bahr says.

And Bahr is pleased that Drue Ray's lifelong dream is coming true.

"Drue's heart is in this program. Improving the quality of life for people is her biggest excitement."

Watch this video for more on how Innovative Services is already utilizing technology to empower independence. [youtube=]