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Community Living & Support Services (CLASS)

Community Living And Support Services (CLASS) is truly appreciative of the generous $5,000 grant from the First Nonprofit Foundation in support of enhancing mobile technologies. Through funds received from the grant, CLASS was able to purchase fifteen Chromebooks for supervisory staff to aid in programmatic efficiencies. Staff benefitting from the equipment purchased include Program Directors and supervisors of the residential homes, known as Residential Homes Managers. Due to their supervisory roles, these staff often provide support to staff and individuals served through the various programs at CLASS from different sites throughout Allegheny and surrounding counties. The mobile technology deployed allows staff to complete most aspects of their work from various locations, without having to travel to the organization’s headquarters. Staff can quickly and securely access consumer files and logs, training opportunities, or their documents from any location.

The Technology Director at CLASS helped staff identify what types of technology could best support supervisory staff working in the community. Based on this research, the Technology Director found the Chromebooks would be a cost-effective way to meet the needs of staff and work on CLASS’s current network systems. The director initially purchased devices for a pilot group to ensure that the devices would work in conjunction with the existing infrastructure, as well as meet the growing needs of staff to be able to work securely from different locations. Once the pilot group confirmed they were able to use the technology, the Technology Director purchased the remaining devices with warranties, a mouse, a cable to connect to other devices for presentations, and protective cases.

Upgrading the mobile technology capabilities at CLASS for Program Directors and Residential Homes Managers has allowed staff to complete different aspects of their job both in the office, as well as in the community where CLASS provides services. Because of being able to work from any location, staff can better support the individuals supported by the programs offered by CLASS. With more trainings becoming digital through the use of webinars and online resources, supervisors can provide trainings at various sites and locations for employees. These trainings can include, but are not limited to, condition specific trainings (brain injury, diabetes, autism, multiple sclerosis), the fatal four (four major health issues affecting people with intellectual disabilities including aspiration, constipation, dehydration, and seizures), changes in protocols or care requirements, and safety issues. Because of these trainings, staff are able to continue to provide quality care, safely and effectively to people with disabilities served by the program.

With the mobile technology in place, supervisors are able to quickly address issues that may arise with a consumer. By accessing different databases, supervisors can easily view information about consumers and their various care needs. For example, if a staff members does not clock in for a shift at a home, supervisors can quickly act to fill the vacancy if needed. At times supervisors will need to fill vacant shifts found in the homes they manage. By using the devices distributed, they are able to connect with the office when needed to complete supervisory duties and documentation from their residential sites. Supervisory staff no longer have to travel to the CLASS headquarters to perform all aspects of their jobs.

In addition, the mobile technology purchased for staff has helped CLASS address the caregiver crisis the industry is facing. Organizations like CLASS are facing record low employment numbers for direct care workers, who help individuals with activities of daily living in their homes. The Recruitment Specialist at CLASS uses the mobile devices to display recruitment materials, such as testimonials and videos, at local job fairs, allowing prospective employees to apply on site.

This project also helps support the community as a whole. CLASS is an advocate for all people, regardless of ability, to live, work, and play in the communities of their choice. Program Directors frequently attend community events and groups, promoting the programs of CLASS and helping people to locate the resources they need to live as independently as possible in their own homes. CLASS believes that our communities flourish when all members can participate. All members of our communities can live independently when they are provided the tools and resources to do so. CLASS markets its programs and services at local resource events, social or support groups, and at different opportunities that may arise.

During the course of the grant, the project progressed as anticipated. Only one slight obstacle arose when implementing the project. Chromebooks were purchased and distributed to members of a pilot group. Staff participating in the initial deployment found they were not always able to connect to Wi-Fi in their locations either due to lack of Wi-Fi in the homes of the individuals CLASS supports, or lack of a secure Wi-Fi connection. To keep personal health information secure, all staff who received the mobile technology upgrades also had agency-issued cell phones. Staff with the mobile devices were trained on how to connect the mobile devices to their cell phones to create secure connections to access the information.

CLASS continues to recognize the importance of evaluating and maintaining mobile technology capabilities and opportunities to meet the ever-changing needs of the programs, as well as changes in requirements from funding sources. The Technology Department, along with the Board Technology Committee, will continue to prioritize additions to technology to meet the various needs of the programs in accordance with funding and licensing guidelines. As more systems become automated and efficient by the development of new software, CLASS will implement the changes necessary to utilize the advancements. At this time, CLASS would not utilize the funds granted differently than described. The implementation of the project met the organization’s goals to replace and enhance the mobile technology of program directors and supervisory staff to increase overall efficiency.

Throughout the course of this project, CLASS was reminded of the importance of evaluating and upgrading mobile technology. CLASS will continue to pursue opportunities to update mobile technologies as it continues to expand services provided in the community. As requirements change to place additional emphasis on community-based services, the need for mobile technology will continue to be a priority for the organization. Needs will be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure CLASS can continue to provide quality services in the community, as efficiently and effectively as possible. CLASS recognizes the importance of safeguarding personal health information of the consumers as well, and will continue to use the strategies used in this project to guide the types of technology the organization will pursue in the future. CLASS will continue to use mobile technology to provide staff and community-based trainings.