A 501(c)(3) Organization · TIN 76-0079085

Nonprofit Improves Lives of Those With Disabilities

After celebrating its 30th anniversary last year and being named the “nonprofit business of the year” by Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce, Reach Unlimited does not plan to rest on its laurels.

Instead, the nonprofit that improves the quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities decided to kick it up a notch.

Reach Unlimited has started a capital campaign – in order to add 35,000 square feet to its daytime care facility, the Learning Activity Center.

The space offers clients life-long learning, vocational development, employment opportunities, recreation, fitness and personal development, as well as chances to engage in community service.

The good news, the nonprofit’s executive director Kathi Schmidt explained, is that the center is filled to the brim with clients.

“The bad news is we have a waiting list,” she added.

More space is needed to expand programs and to provide services to more clients.

Phase Two of the Learning Activity Center would add a large multi-purpose room for recreational activities, a commercial kitchen and dining area, and space for administrative offices.

The project will require raising $8 million in additional funding.

Schmidt said that Reach Unlimited began in 1983, when a group of parents of young adults with disabilities joined forces.

“Their children had graduated from special ed at school,” she said. “These parents want their children to have a life. They were asking, ‘What’s next?’ ”

They learned that their options were limited.

“There weren’t many continuing programs,” Schmidt said. “They started writing grants.”

The parents then banded together to form a nonprofit.

“These families had a vision for their children to have long and productive lives,” Schmidt said. “What they wanted most was for their children to have independence.”

The parents hoped to create a safe place where their children could live and continue to learn. They opened their first group home in 1983, and a second, one year later.

Today, there are 19 group homes located from Tomball to Spring Branch.

Schmidt joined the team just a few weeks after Reach was formed. “What I thought was going to be a temporary job turned into a career filled with love and passion,” she said.

After nine years, she worked her way up from bookkeeper to executive director of the nonprofit.

One of Schmidt’s early goals was to take over the day services provided to clients from a contractual company.

“It was a process, but the board agreed to start our own program,” she said.

Reach began a capital campaign to build a day center in 2001. By 2005, the center opened at 11832 Mueller Cemetery Road – serving not only residential clients but also the population with intellectual disabilities in the greater Houston area. It was constructed with $2.2 million in donated funds.

Associate executive director Lauren Black joined Reach the same year to help manage the day program.

She had been working as a special education teacher and principal at the Carlton Center in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. The school provides life skills and vocational training to students with disabilities.

There, Black said she saw first hand how families struggled after their children with special needs aged out of the school system.

“Graduation is really a scary time for them,” she said. “I’ve seen families grapple with who is going to quit their job to take care of their adult children.”

Black wanted to be part of the solution.

The Learning Activity Center is part life-long learning school, part vocational training facility and part social activity place for clients of Reach Unlimited.

The curriculum includes health, life-skills, academics, art, cooking and nutrition, music, performance art, social skills, fitness, technology-based learning, independent living skills, community service and vocational training.

The center also offers “supported employment” – where clients participate in contract work.

“We seek to provide every client the opportunity to earn a paycheck while they are with us,” Black said.

Clients may be paid to sort hangers for a retail store or to create embossed napkins for special occasions.

“They pay us, and we pay our clients,” Black said. “It’s a great way to provide a service to a business, and it makes people feel good about themselves and promotes their independence.”

The center also has a fused glass studio – and the wares created by clients are sold in the gift shop.

Clients also engage in social service projects – helping with Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

The Learning Activity Center is open 11 hours a day to accommodate the schedules of families. Clients range from 12 to 74 years old.

There is also an after-school service for children too old for daycare.

Black said the original plan for the center was broken into phases due to budgetary constraints.

Reach Unlimited also offers certified home-based services, including case management, counseling, therapy, dietary services, housing modifications and dental treatment.

The group homes continue to be in high demand across Houston – from Spring Branch and Tomball to Magnolia and Cypress.

“They’re in neighborhoods all over the place,” Black said. “We provide 24/7 care. We’ve got staff that work around the clock.”

There are usually three to nine residents in one home. Each house has a vehicle used to transport clients to the center every day.

Black said she loves her job, because she genuinely cares about her clients.

Staff members at Reach Unlimited are eager to help others understand the unique needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

She said that a lack of funding in the state has led to a lack of services.

“We look at it as a challenge for us to improve things,” Black said.

Schmidt said the need will only increase over time.

In the meantime, she hopes the community will join in the fundraising effort to expand the center – and stop by the facility to take a tour.

“We’re always looking for ambassadors to help us spread the word,” Black said.


Source: The Houston Chronicle

Groups serving disabled populations in Texas deal with legislative changes

CYF-2016-12-20-1Over the next several years, state legislation is changing the way nonprofits such as Reach Unlimited—the Cy-Fair group dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities—are managed and funded.

Public school systems across the state are required to meet the needs of students with IDD at no cost to their families. However, after high school graduation, many family members are forced to quit their jobs to provide supervision for loved ones, Reach Executive Director Lauren Black said.

Based on family income and condition diagnosis, individuals can apply for Medicaid waiver funds after they graduate, Black said. This money can help people afford the kinds of programs available through organizations like Reach, such as adaptive aids, day habilitation, home modifications, nursing, residential assistance, specialized therapies and supported employment.

However, due to a shortage of funding, many people who apply for the waivers do not receive them, Black said.

“What is usually a happy celebration becomes a scary time for families when they have a loved one with IDD graduating out of the school system,” she said. “If an individual has not been awarded a ‘slot’ for the Medicaid waiver funds, the family is on their own to figure out how to pay for services.”

Those who receive the waiver can typically arrange for services to start soon after graduation. According to the program’s website, 21,000 Texans are receiving waiver services, but more than 156,000 are currently waitlisted.

In Cy-Fair, 250-350 additional graduates per year need the services that Reach Unlimited provides. These numbers do not account for general population growth, Black said.

Changes to the system
Passed in 2013, Texas Senate Bill 7 decided acute and long-term Medicaid services—including those for individuals with IDD—will be under a single care system. By 2020, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services will be absorbed into the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in an effort to contain costs and improve health care, officials said.

Before this transition, services were supervised by the Texas HHSC, the Texas DADS and locally by the Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities. Harris County clients receiving Medicaid funding were required to choose one of three care providers that acted as insurance companies for clients with special needs, Black said.

The U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services also changed policy to rule out settings in which individuals are isolated from the surrounding community in day programs. States must comply by March 2019.

Intended to promote choice and increase community integration, this change will be difficult to implement under the current funding conditions, Black said. At Reach, staffing would need to quadruple to maintain the health and safety of clients, she said.

With Reach already raising $1,800 per client per year through its own efforts, this change could eliminate programs altogether without increased funding from the state, Black said.

“When there is a lack of funding, people go unserved,” Black said. “From the bigger picture, when monies are not allocated to the waiver programs to address the needs of this section of our population, they often times show up in other parts of community services like the judicial system, homeless population and psychiatric facilities.”

At Reach Unlimited, Black said the staff must fundraise the difference between the current funding structure and the actual cost of delivering services. If funding was not an issue, the nonprofit would like to grow to provide services for more individuals, she said.

“Our belief is if legislators can meet some of the real people and hear their stories, it will give them a better perspective and understanding when thinking about funding, program needs of individuals and possibly the best ways for those funds to be channeled to maximize the benefit to individuals with IDD,” Black said.


Legislation will be changing the way funding works for programs that assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

  • By 2019:A recommendation from the U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services will be enforced statewide, ruling out congregate settings for day programs, meaning individuals cannot be isolated from the surrounding community. Some officials fear the change will put additional staffing and housing strain on existing IDD communities.
  • By 2020:Senate Bill 7, passed in the 83rd Texas Legislature, will be fully implemented, requiring the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to jointly design and implement acute care, long-term services and support systems for individuals with IDD through managed-care providers.

Source:  Community Impact Newspaper

Reach Unlimited opens 22nd group home

Some adults with disabilities now have a new place to call home, thanks to Reach Unlimited, an organization that provides support services for people with intellectual and mental disabilities. This month the organization celebrated the opening of its 22nd group home located on Verde Park Lane in Cypress.

Currently three of the organization’s clients live in the home. Reach Unlimited is leasing the newly constructed house and the structure of the organization’s homes usually serve three to four adults with disabilities. It costs Reach Unlimited approximately $59,000 in order to properly prepare a home so that it is furnished and outfitted for clients.

David Williams, 50, is a resident at the new Reach Unlimited group home. Bob and Virginia Williams, David’s parents, have had their son involved in Reach Unlimited since 1988.
“David has been with Reach Unlimited since 1988, and there were very few options back then for the mentally disabled. We found Reach Unlimited and it seemed like the best option to us,” Bob Williams said. “I think it is important to have organizations such as Reach Unlimited that provide these kinds of services and housing options, so they can be as independent as possible.”
The residents make decisions regarding how they will spend their free time, chore assignments and other living decisions as a group. Reach Unlimited also provides residents with transportation to get the young adults to the Learning Activity Center, their jobs in the community, and church or other community activities.

Reach Unlimited began as a residential program 33 years ago, and now in addition to 22 group homes, the organization offers a day habilitation program that serves more than 300 clients every week in the Cypress area.

Reach Unlimited offers programs such as an enterprise program at the Reach Learning Activity Center which provides in-house opportunities for clients to earn a paycheck, intermediate care facilities, home and community based services, a learning activity center and supported employment at various jobs in the community.

“There is a growing need for the services Reach Unlimited provides which is evidenced by our waiting lists of prospective clients. Reach Unlimited provides much needed services for an under-served part of our population and contributes greatly to the enrichment of our clients’ lives,” said Verna Noack, Reach Unlimited donor and community relations manager. “The organization contributes to clients’ lives by helping and encouraging them to develop and grow their skills, discover their capabilities, and enjoy social activities in a network of friends.”

Last year in February, Reach Unlimited broke ground for part one of the planned expansion of the Reach Learning Activity Center. The Harris County Community Development Services Department awarded Reach Unlimited with a $750,000 grant to go toward the expansion of the facility.

Part one includes a lighted football field for the Special Olympics team, a teaching green house, an outdoor restroom and an outdoor parking lot. Once the organization raises enough funds, the construction of phase two will begin by adding 49,168 square feet to the Learning Activity Center. The additional space will allow for 10 new classrooms, a large multi-purpose room for recreational activities, a commercial kitchen/dining area and space for administrative offices.

On April 21, Reach Unlimited plans on holding a golf classic that will benefit the capital campaign to bring more classroom space and a gymnasium to the Learning Activity Center.
Reach Unlimited is a certified Home and Community-Based Service (HCS) provider that operates group homes located from the Tomball to Spring Branch areas.

Source:  Chron.com