What started in 1974 as a pipe dream among leaders of community agencies committed to improving services for people with disabilities became a reality when the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities was formally funded by Lilly Endowment in that same year.
For the first two-thirds of the century, society's caring functions were the work of government and the charities of the day. Due to the efforts of like-minded leaders, families and advocates, new models of service emerged. People with disabilities were moving to the community and agencies were founded to provide essential services. Leaders of these community agencies met regularly in informal gatherings to discuss challenges and establish a collective voice.
The agendas of this dedicated workgroup were consumed with the development or acquisition of buildings, finding adequate resources, discovering solutions to important questions and identifying work and work-related activities. This "cause celebre" was not dissimilar in most states; it was just that many states on the east coast and in the nation's Midwest were in acceleration mode to get things done - not tomorrow, but today.
Indiana's solution was simple: founding leaders felt that in order to be effective on a sustained basis, it was imperative to create an Association. In 1974, the Lilly Endowment provided funding to support a new and growing membership organization known as the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Inc. (INARF). Lilly and others throughout Indiana responded to the immediate and critical need to establish a leadership mechanism at the state level would improve public policy, provide a communication network for improved business services and create an opportunity for growth.
The prevalent thinking at the time was that more could be accomplished where a partnership existed such as those born from the Great Society of the Lyndon Johnson Presidency. This pattern helped segue the initial work between the Federal Government and philanthropic groups, state government/community agencies and thus trade associations.
To underscore the dynamics of legislation and the building of the industry's infrastructure, one must realize what was occurring on the Federal level between 1973 -1980. First, President John Kennedy's Community Mental Health Act in 1963 authorized funding for developmental research centers in university affiliated facilities and community facilities for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). This was the first of its kind. Other critical legislative actions were:
>The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed
>Education of All Handicapped Children Act passed (Forerunner to IDEA)
>Small Business Investment Act (Handicapped Assistance Loans) passed
>Javits-Wagner O'Day Act (JWOD) was amended
The confluence of these legislative acts set an aggressive work agenda for newly formed INARF and its members. They had to be ready and "at the table."
After the initial Lilly grant concluded, a significant decision was made to define INARF's core services, and to support those services through an equitable dues base. The core services which remain true today include: information, representation in the public policy arena (legislatively and administratively), active committees and education & training programs for staff development. These were developed accordingly and refined through the decade that followed.
Sparse resources and the clamor for increased coordination and collaboration caused a call to action on two fronts from the late 1980s through the late 1990s. At INARF's urging, a Supported Employment Coordinating Council was formed and chaired by Governor Robert Orr's Executive Assistant. The Council's mission was to bring three state agencies together to provide resources and streamline policies to develop supported employment services targeted towards Indiana's businesses and industries. This was an investment in the future and an important statement by the state and by INARF.
Secondly, by 1998, INARF created legislative support for SB 317 which created a commission to study and make recommendations for the redesign of the developmental disability service system. Their set of recommendations called for an immediate investment of new money into the system and for all money saved by the closing of existing institutions to be reverted into community services. Other important recommendations were: to provide for the transition of people with disabilities from congregate to more community integrated settings; to plan and design programs which facilitated this transition; and to deploy new money into the system at each budget session.
In more recent years, revenue for services, grew from about $15 million late in the 70's to about $750 million by the turn of the century (2000). So, if the ultimate question was "is INARF effective," the answer had to be a resounding yes. It was a concerted effort by INARF and its members to generate ample funds for community services. This was the case then and it will most likely always be the case.
As the system has changed and adapted through this growth, so has INARF - changing from a small group to an inclusive industry of committed professionals. It has changed its thinking on some issues and its models of service in order to adapt to the way that members' participation is changing.
The 21st century INARF has "preserved the core and has stimulated progress" in an extremely coordinated and collaborative manner. The organization continually adapts to what is wanted and expected as a result of the generational shifts in the workforce, social changes, and the technology-eased access to content, community and decisions.