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Better Together

May 28, 2014 11:24AM ● By MED Magazine

Photos courtesy of LifeScape

By Alex Strauss 

Both South Dakota Achieve and Children’s Care Hospital and School have long been recognized for their ability to adapt to the changing medical needs of Sioux Falls and surrounding communities. Established in 1952 as a school for polio victims, the program originally known as Crippled Children’s Hospital and School transformed itself over the years to serve a variety of the most pressing medical and educational needs of children. 

South Dakota Achieve has also evolved through different names and service offerings.  It was opened in 1958 as the Sioux Chapter Workshop for the Mentally Retarded, and was later known for many years as Sioux Vocational Services. Although it also started out serving children with disabilities, Sioux Vocational (and then Achieve) eventually served only adults and older adolescents with support to live independently, communicate, expand their social networks, find work, and stay healthy.

Now, these organizations have proven, once again, their ability and willingness to adapt to changing times by joining forces to form LifeScape. By combining these two demographics, the new non-profit organization, announced in April, has the capacity and expertise to support the varied medical, educational, emotional, mental, and social needs of patients with disabilities at any stage of life, for as long as that support is needed.  


Origins of LifeScape

Because they serve so many of the same types of patients at different stages in their lives, it stands to reason that CCHS and South Dakota Achieve would look for ways to collaborate and they did. LifeScape CEO Anne Rieck McFarland says the conversation started about a year and a half ago.

“It was during those discussions about possible collaborative projects that we realized that there were a lot of synergies here,” says Rieck McFarland who had previously been President and CEO of South Dakota Achieve.

One of the most notable aspects of those discussions was the willingness of both organizations to look beyond their own entrenched and respected community brands, to imagine something bigger. “Even just the fact that two non-profits were able to put their egos on the shelf and look at what was going to serve the community best is quite something,” Rieck McFarland notes.

While the birth-to-adulthood LifeScape concept is not unprecedented in the country, it is not common, giving LifeScape few models on which to base their new organization. As the CCHS and SD Achieve boards explored the possibilities of working together as a single organization, they connected with the national Council on Quality and Leadership, a group that works with human service organizations like LifeScape, which directed them to 5 comparable U.S. programs serving the same demographic.

“We are planning to take advantage of the things these organizations have learned about serving people with disabilities,” says Rieck McFarland. “We also want to pay it forward for other organizations in the future as we come up with the best ways to provide these services.”


New Service Areas

Although the two organizations that combined to form LifeScape will continue to provide the services that have always been associated with them, Rieck McFarland and LifeScape’s Vice President of Medical and Therapy Services, Kristin Tuttle, says LifeScape will be able to serve certain clients in ways that have not previously been possible. Hence, the “Better Together” slogan in LifeScape’s marketing.

One area of service expansion under the LifeScape banner will be mental health, an area with which many service organizations for adults with disabilities struggle. “Like many of these organizations, we have a lot of adults with mental health needs that are unserved or underserved,” says Rieck McFarland. “With the mental health expertise we have gained through our association with CCHS, we will be able to better understand their needs and help them. We hope to now become more familiar and competent in managing these adults.”

Respite care to provide a break for the caregivers of adults and children with disabilities is another area of planned service expansion.  With the expertise to handle even medically complex patients, LifeScape will be able to safely provide this much-needed service to more families who need it.

Likewise, adults with significant medical needs, such as those on ventilators, IV, or feeding tubes who need round-the-clock high level nursing care, can now be served by LifeScape at a level not possible through South Dakota Achieve.

“In the past, Achieve would not have been able to help these people and they might have ended up in a nursing home,” says Rieck McFarland. “No 21-year-old wants to be in a nursing home. That is not the right place for them and now there is an alternative that can help them grow and develop while their medical needs are being taken care of.”


Into the Future

In the past year, CCHS and South Dakota Achieve served an estimated 2,300 children and adults from South Dakota and the surrounding states through programs in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and many communities and school districts throughout South Dakota.  LifeScape will now continue to serve clients ranging from children with serious birth defects , injuries, autism and learning disabilities to mentally disabled adults, those with traumatic brain injuries, and those with diseases such as Parkinson’s or ALS who may need adaptive equipment.

“Because we have such a wide range of services, we have great intake specialists who help get people where they need to go,” says Tuttle. “Whether they need to be an inpatient or they are looking for rehabilitation medical supplies, we can help direct them so that they get what they need.”

Although these services will all continue to be provided through the existing CCHS and South Dakota Achieve facilities in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, Rieck McFarland says the idea of an eventual new brick and mortar facility is not off the table.

“This is not something that we would do any time soon, but we don’t know what the future will hold,” says Rieck McFarland of this unique organization. “We will do what do need to do to adequately serve the needs of the community. Because the reality is that we are serving many people who would otherwise not be served at all. Period. If we didn’t serve them, they would be sent to an institution. Our ability to help these people is even greater now that we are together.”


Services Provided by the New LifeScape

“The most important message for medical providers in the area is that, as LifeScape, we are continuing to provide all of the same services that Achieve and CCHS provided separately in the past,” says Kristin Tuttle, LifeScape’s Vice President of Medical and Therapy Services.

“South Dakota Achieve provided nursing services and therapy services to adults and they will continue to do this. CCHS provided nursing, therapy and psychology services to children and LifeScape will do this. Outreach physicians, occupational and speech therapy, clinical psychology… all of these things are still in place.”

LifeScape services include:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Inpatient medically complex medical care
  • Residential services
  • Outpatient therapy and psychology services
  • Supported living
  • Special education
  • Supported community employment and employment preparedness
  • Day services and respite care
  • Specialized rehabilitation equipment
  • Orthotics and prosthetics

  • Community and school-based outreach therapy