People with disabilities now have another resource for services with the recent opening of Helping All People Pursue Independence Inc., or HAPPi.
HAPPi opened May 9 and is operated by five women — Rhonda Morrill, president/executive director, Sharon Adcock, vice president/director of operations, Cindy Elmlinger, vice president/director of finances, Ruthanne Alexander, secretary/director of administration and A.J. Newland, treasurer/director of resources.
“We assist people with disabilities remain in their own homes,” Morrill said Tuesday. “We assist them through in-home services or in directed services.”
Morrill added that the difference between HAPPi and other in-home service companies is that they are local.
“A lot of in-home services do not have a local office that is fully staffed,” she noted.
“It is consumer-directed, which is the difference, it means they get to choose their attendant,” Adcock added. “We provide case management services.”
Although the client is able to choose their attendant, HAPPi employees are the ones who run the background check and verify if the person’s record is reliable. They also provide the payroll for the “consumer’s attendants.” The consumer may choose anyone to help them except a spouse.
“Not only do we provide the consumer-directed services, and what goes along with that, but we’re also there in case they have another issue,” Morrill said.
HAPPi is there for the consumer who needs help paying their water bill or who may need a ramp built.
“We are here to help them find those services,” she noted.
The reason the women banded together to create HAPPi was due to dissatisfaction with another company.
“We have all previously worked with people with disabilities,” Morrill said. “It became a passion for all five of us to allow those persons with disabilities to have great service. Because in our past we’ve been around some companies that we weren’t happy with their customer service, we all five decided with our passion and with our knowledge that we could help them more.”
Morrill said consumer-directed service is a Medicaid program. They also offer private pay for those who do not qualify for Medicaid.
“A lot of that is for the elderly that’s not on Medicaid, and they have Medicare,” Morrill said. “(They) have the extra money and the need to have someone in the home with them.
“If you have an elderly person who doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, they can contact us and we can help them through the private pay, which means they will be paying for it out of their own pocket,” she added. “Our private pay services is different from other private pay services, because it’s cheaper for one thing. Again, we take care of all the background checks, all the payroll, the taxes.”
Newland said one might need the service for a only a short time, such as when they are released from the hospital.
“It could just be a few hours a day or just a couple of tasks, such as vacuuming or washing the windows,” Adcock added.
Requirements for CDS states the person must have a physical disability, be on Missouri Medicaid or MO HealthNet and be 18 years of age.
“On that note, not all Medicaid codes are eligible,” Newland said. “They have to be active, and they do have to be eligible code. If they have a spend-down, the spend-down does have to be met before we can provide services.”
HAPPi covers the counties of Pettis, Benton and Saline. They also provide information and referral, peer support, advocacy and independent living skills training.
“In order to be a consumer-directed service vendor through the state of Missouri, we also have to provide these other services,” Morrill said.
Sometimes one just needs to talk to someone; the women at HAPPi listen.
“If somebody calls up and they are having a bad day, we can relate to that and we just let them talk,” Adcock said.
“In some cases we can connect them with other people who have the same disability and the same problems,” Newland added. “It’s like a support group.”
Morrill said if the consumer is having difficulty with a landlord or needs to have an air-conditioner repaired, HAPPi can be an advocate or a voice.
“Anything like that, that we can help advocate on their behalf, and maybe get it done through us,” she noted. “Sometimes people with disabilities are not good self-advocates. We are here to help with that.”
The women also added that they help the consumer with any type of skill that will promote their independence in their own home.
“We have the three Cs — control, choice and change,” Adcock added. “That’s something we want to make sure they know they have.”
“Our program is very consumer-oriented,” Morrill stated. “It’s all up to them …”
The women waited a year to be approved by the state of Missouri to open HAPPi. They plan to be around for some time.
“I think a lot of people are worried, they worry about new businesses, if they are going to be around for a long time,” Morrill said. “We are here to stay and we are very committed to what we do.
“Our goal is to grow into other counties, eventually,” she added. “To have offices in Saline County and Benton County and eventually move east. We are committed.”
HAPPi is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1704 S. Ingram Ave. For more information, call 829-0700, visit their Facebook page or www.HAPPIINC.org.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.