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New day program for adults with IDD sees enthusiastic response

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not an easy time to start a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but in August Bridgeway forged ahead to give locals with disabilities more options to socialize.

Bridgeway was certified in July to begin a day program that would offer activities to address daily living skills and leisure and social activities. The activities are meant to help build interpersonal skills, independence and personal choice.

“I knew that people needed more choices. That was one of the reasons that we decided to start this new service in Picayune,” said Director of Operations Jason Kirkland.

The day program is the third of its kind in Picayune, and Kirkland hopes the competition will increase the quality of all three programs.

“The population can choose where they feel the right fit, what fits them. The philosophies of the organization and the programming itself varies significantly, especially in profit and not for profit organizations,” he said.

Bridgeway is a non-profit, and the majority of its funding comes from billing Medicaid, while some is supported through donations. The day program has been inundated with responses, said Kirkland, and now has 18 people signed up with more expected to come through referrals.

“It’s a real challenging time right now, adding a service like this with COVID-19. It just really brings a lot of extra challenges, but the staff and the participants have been very supportive of our safety environment and keeping folks safe.”

The program follows CDC guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and so far has had zero cases in the program.

“It wasn’t an ideal time to start, but folks do need to have some outlet in their day to day life to have some type of socialization,” said Kirkland.

The program offers small group and individual activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Socializing is an important part of life for anyone, including people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, said Kirkland.

“People with disabilities are just like us. They want to have different relationships, meet new people. This gives them the social outlet to connect to different people in the community that they may never have connected to.”

The day program also gives parents or caregivers some time to themselves during the day.

Bridgeway has added new staff for the day program and expects to add more new employees as the number of participants increases. The program adheres to a specific ratio of staff to participants required by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.