Independent Living Services, a Conway nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities, is a recent recipient among area service providers that has gained CARF accreditation.

Other providers in Conway who have sought and earned the status, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, are Birch Tree Communities, Inc., the Conway  Human Development Center, and Counseling Associates, Inc.

Independent Living Services began in Conway with a small group home for eight men in 1971. Its residents came from the Arkansas Children’s Colony, known now as the Conway Human Development Center.

Today, the group provides transportation services, educational opportunities, employment and waiver care to more than 200 people with developmental or intellectual disabilities in central Arkansas.

This is the group’s second successful three-year accreditation.

"Admittedly, our first accreditation process was a difficult and bumpy one, but the in-depth analysis enabled us to closely examine our processes, procedures, outcomes and risks," said Kathy Weatherl, director of ILS’s day program that provides constituents with continued education in classroom and vocational environments. "As a result, ILS has emerged a stronger organization. Our strengths, from top management to our outstanding direct service personnel, are reflected in the results of our CARF accreditation."

According to CARF International’s website, the group operates as a nonprofit and independent organization of accreditors.

CARF "officially recognizes health and human service providers as having met standards for quality of service." 

Jackie Fliss, chief executive officer of ILS, said the CARF approval is a "deemed status."

"ILS sought the CARF accreditation so that we could measure the quality of our services on a nation-wide basis," Fliss said. "ILS has always sought to provide the best and highest quality services to the people we serve. This helps us to assure that we are a high quality agency based on national standards."

Fliss said the group spent about a year reviewing policies and procedures and adding appropriate revisions before first seeking the status in 2008.

"We were the smallest agency in Arkansas to seek and become accredited by CARF," Fliss said. "The second review and accreditation was less time consuming since we review our policies and procedures, measurement tools and results, and strategic plans on a regular basis. No playing catch up this time."

Weatherl said that the accreditation process is an ongoing one, and a "way of life."

"CARF is a process that requires us to look at everything from top to bottom," she said. "It involves the staff, the community and the people we serve. The information comes from all of our stakeholders."  

Weatherl added that of 92 organizations that provide services to those with developmental disabilities in Arkansas, nine are CARF accredited.

A 20-page survey report for the group lists many "strengths" that contributed to the survey’s outcome.

"Staff gives the distinct impression of being very caring and client centered, using humor to normalize a variety of client behaviors, reactions and statements. A family atmosphere is emphasized within all services," the report stated.

Another of the group’s listed strengths is its partnership with the University of Central Arkansas Department of Occupational Therapy.

Occupational therapy students assist consumers in the development and production of a play that they perform. This performance is then opened to the public and is a well-attended theatre event.

"Occupational therapy students who have graduated from this program are using this methodology to treat other people with developmental disabilities, so these types of plays are now performed in several places in Arkansas," the report stated. 

Among many other strengths listed are a management team that includes people who have been with the organization for more than 20 years, the consumers’ general pride in work created or attained through Profiles Enrichment Center, and pride that consumers expressed in living quarters.

In at least one area, the group was deemed "exemplary."

"Independent Living Services is complimented for the first Sunshine Optimist Club in the world for persons with developmental disabilities."

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)