Dr. Allen is the president and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which leads collaborative efforts across the state to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism through education, comprehensive services, community awareness, inclusion efforts, and coordinated advocacy.
Written By: Dr. Colleen Allen
I first met Kadima Clinical Director Jean Nemenzik when Kadima hosted Dr. Fred Volkmar from Yale for its Education Conference in October 2015. I had heard of Kadima because of the residential support it offers so many, and the issue of housing for people on the autism spectrum has been a focus of the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) for several years. Jean had reached out to us as a partner for the conference. After that initial contact, and our follow up conversations, we discovered it made sense for us to partner on additional activities.
Given a mission around timely, affordable access to care, AAoM has directed much of their efforts towards empowering existing service providers to do more, and do better in some cases, when needed. AAoM was created by parents who were frustrated by their inability to find services and resources for their children or to navigate the systems of what services were even available at the time. They decided they wanted to create an organization that wouldn't be duplicative of others’ efforts but would identify barriers for families and seek opportunities to help them overcome those barriers.
In fact, because Kadima is a long-standing, established organization, and ours is relatively new, functioning since about 2010, we look to Kadima’s expertise in addressing residential barriers to help us identify issues in policy, funding, resources, etc. so we can serve our partners in creating environments for them to continue to succeed. Jean has been an asset in helping us identify obstacles to feed our advocacy agenda.
In addition to advocacy work, we connect families with services. A family may call us for housing assistance, and we would help them identify resources for that housing through our partner network. Kadima is one of the destinations we would connect families with. We have a significant demand from families looking for quality options on living arrangements, whether shorter or longer term, and we want to do what can to help empower a system of organizations, like Kadima, to provide housing and resources.
With such a shortage around residential options for those with disabilities and autism, my hope for the partnership with Kadima is that AAoM can help by addressing funding or policy obstacles that are prohibiting growth opportunities for Kadima. We know Kadima does good work, we get really good feedback, and we would love to see more people be able to pursue them as an option.