A visit from the Commish

Jerry, Commissioner Traylor, and Kelly

Commissioner Chris Traylor, head of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which provides licensure and oversight of Down Home Ranch, visited today.  We were honored and proud to show “the Commish” around, and have him meet our high-spirited band of Ranchers, all of whom were busy at their jobs gardening, cooking, cleaning, and tending the animals.

When we first started Down Home Ranch, we were determined never to accept any public money.  We wanted desperately to remain independent, free from needless restraints and cumbersome bureaucratic entanglements.

But…once we began the residential program, we hit a wall.  We just could not raise enough money to pay for the cost of caring for people with major intellectual disabilities, and our families could not afford to pay the amounts needed to support their Rancher throughout their entire lives.

On more than one occasion, we were contacted by other private pay facilities, who were having to discharge a resident (who in one case had lived there for over 20 years) because their trust funds had given out, or their dads had retired.  How much of a heartbreak would that be!?

Jer and I were comfortably middle-class when we decided to sail into the unknown waters of building a ranch for people with disabilities, but we didn't know any people of great wealth.  We built the Ranch over a long period of time, paying as we went.

Rebekah and Brian tend plants in front of the Pavilion

But maintaining a residential program is an all-or-nothing deal.  When you're building a barn, you can build part of it and then take a break while you gather the resources to finish it.  That doesn't work so well with people, and although we as a family had gone through very precarious times in building the Ranch, there was no way we'd put our Ranchers through anything like that.  We needed a stable source of funding.

One thing led to another, and we decided it would be a good idea for the Ranch, and a tremendous help for our struggling families, to seek certification as providers for some of the programs funded through Medicaid for people with intellectual disabilities.

I was the program director in those days, and had to wend my way through the truly daunting obstacles of qualifying for that certification.  One of my tasks was to write policies and procedures based on innumerable rules, statues, regulations, and “tags” that spell out exactly and precisely how and why to do everything under the sun related to caring for a person with a disability.

To my surprise, I found no egregious or unreasonable dictates therein.  “It's all there, every bit of it, for very good reasons,” I told Jerry.

At first there was a bit of resistance on the part of advocates and regulators.  They were suspicious of why we would decide to plop ourselves out in the middle of nowhere.  The trend was totally the other way–apartments and single homes for one or two folks at most.  Why did we want to be in the country, all living together?

Well, suffice it to say that it comes down to different strokes for different folks.  Some people like the country, the animals, the friends nearby.  We strove for that old-fashioned neighborhood, where a helping hand is never far away, and by gum, we think we've got it!

We promised to work hard to be the best providers–privately or publically funded–in the state of Texas, and  DADS has come to appreciate that we mean to do exactly that, providing technical help and support along the way.

Did becoming dependent on public support solve all of our financial problems?  Absolutely not.  At most it's a good base from which to start.  The money we receive from the state covers the basics–housing, utilities, food, supervision.  But income from charitable donations and enterprises make the real difference in the quality of life for our Ranchers–travel, lots of off-Ranch activities, superior day program and excellent staff.  Together we can offer terrific opportunities for our residents, and they don't have to come from wealthy families to live here.

When the Commissioner showed up today, we were eager to show him the Ranch and our community up close and personal.  He was warmly greeted by confident, cheerful staff and Ranchers, and we hope he agrees that our partnership with DADS has paid off well all around.

And we thank him for his work, and his caring, for those we all serve.