SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The collaboration of the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, JESPY House and SRS Strategic Associates recently received additional funding of $150,000 from the NJ Department of Health’s Division of Disability Services to continue the NJACP grant -JESPY Model Inclusive Healthy Community project which started in January 2021.
The NJACP-JESPY model brings together NJACP, SRS, JESPY House, JESPY customers and the South Orange community to create a more inclusive and healthier community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The results of the grant will benefit not only people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also people with physical disabilities and the community as a whole. Key elements of the project include improving the accessibility and walkability of the city; place people with disabilities on committees that will impact policies, practices and decision-making in the south of Orange; and adapt the model to be applicable throughout New Jersey.
During the first round of grants, the NJACP-JESPY model team assessed South Orange’s accessibility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by interviewing over 200 people in this category and conducting assessments which resulted in the publication of a report and change plan which was sent to the South Orange Board of Directors. Plans to distribute the plan to a wider audience are part of the next phase of the grant project’s outreach and awareness campaign.
Since the start of the grant, progress has been made towards inclusivity, with JESPY customers participating more in the South Orange community, including: speaking at a South Orange town center meeting; work with the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association to plant pollinator gardens; working with the South Orange Shade Tree Committee to help plant 175 new shade trees; crocheting Ukrainian flag pins, which were sold by JESPY House and area businesses to raise $1,500 for the benefit of the Ukrainian people; and in partnership with Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse to present a showcase of popular songs.
“It was important to include people from the I/DD community from the start of the project. They had to express what mattered to them,” said Audrey Winkler, Executive Director of JESPY. “After the assessments, we concluded that people with I/DD are often invisible in the community and underrepresented in decision-making. Going forward, including people with I/DD in the community and on political committees would have a significant impact for South Orange.
Members of the NJACP-JESPY model team look forward to continuing the project with this grant.
“We will focus on policies, systems and environmental change, including developing and conducting ‘How to Build a Healthy and Inclusive Community’ training, participation in committee activities and involvement in a community project. capital improvements,” said Shelley Samuels, director of SRS Strategic Associates.
“Over the next year, we will continue to seek inclusion opportunities for people with I/DD in South Orange, while developing a framework and tools that can be adapted in other communities in New Jersey, so that more areas can become inclusive for all. residents,” said Colleen Klepser, NJACP Director of Administration and Events. “We are grateful for the continued support of the NJ Department of Health, Division of Disability Services in this project.”
For the latest information on the NJACP-JESPY model, visit https://njacp.org/ihc-grant/. For more information or how to participate, contact Klepser at [email protected] or Winkler at [email protected]
Photos courtesy of Sonya Kimble-Ellis