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January 16, 2019

Needs assessment findings prioritize housing, mental health, and access

Hundreds provided feedback on the Community Needs Assessment of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services in Boulder County

Boulder County, Colo. -- A Community Needs Assessment for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) in Boulder County has concluded with recommendations for enhancing access to services, increasing affordable housing options, and refining the scope of mental health services in the community, among other focus areas. The Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services (HHS), OMNI Institute, and Keystone Policy Center conducted the assessment and released the report on its findings on Jan. 16. The executive brief and full report are available at

“The frequent and direct feedback of those we serve is essential in our work to empower people and strengthen families in our community, and we are so grateful to everyone who participated in this assessment,” said Susan Caskey, Director of the HHS IMPACT Care Management Division, which helped oversee the study. She noted that in 2002, Boulder County voters approved a property tax to fund programs for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their families. “The assessment findings are an indication of where our I/DD investments are working best and where we might need to focus more attention to help people with cognitive and developmental disabilities live happy, healthy, and independent lives.”

Through online surveys, community forums, individual interviews and small group conversations, 441 people - including community members who receive Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities services, their family members, I/DD community service providers, and others - shared their input around current services and potential gaps to help inform the assessment.

Overall, the assessment’s direct engagement process highlighted six major priority needs areas identified by stakeholders:

  • Affordable and accessible housing
  • Systems navigation, case management, and advocacy
  • Mental health services
  • Self-advocacy, community engagement, and social connectedness
  • Community education and awareness about I/DD
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation

During the assessment, many community members also provided personal accounts of the real-life impacts of these priority needs for themselves and their families.

“The strongest predictor of lifespan is not diet or exercise,” said a community member with autism. “It is actually social integration—having at least three friends you can confide in and speak with on a regular basis.”

Another I/DD assessment participant articulated experiences with accessing mental health care, saying, “If you are not trained to recognize I/DD as a therapist, you cannot recommend things for people who don’t have the same neuro functioning [as a person without I/DD].”

“The bottom line is that there are not enough housing choices for our population and the existing model is basically host homes,” explained a family member of a person with I/DD. “These solutions are not enough. The choice of host homes is something that we don’t view as a viable, long term solution.” Host homes are provided by independent contractors who offer care in their own homes for individuals with I/DD.

The I/DD Community Needs Assessment report features other recommendations for addressing the top priority areas including estimated timelines for implementing changes and guidance for investments that would be needed and as resources are available.

The assessment and its recommendations will be presented to community members via an online webinar on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. and at an in-person community meeting in February (date and location to be determined and announced soon).

In the months that follow, additional engagement opportunities for all stakeholder groups will help define concrete next steps that can be taken. Additional next steps may result in the formation of an I/DD advisory council, composed of both community members and individuals with I/DD.

“There should be nothing about us without us,” stated an individual with I/DD during the assessment. “People need to be at the table. Promoting, supporting, and empowering citizen experts and self-advocates has to become a priority.”

For updates on community meetings and to learn more about services and supports for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities community, visit