Life and the dignity of the human person is a fundamental teaching for Catholics who advocate for the protection of human life at all stages regardless of an individual’s challenges.
That vision is lived out in the growing community of Bishop Grady Villas (BGV) in St. Cloud. Inside the villas, adults with intellectual disabilities are taught to live as members of their community, each according to their unique abilities. The Assisted Living Facility provides a safe space for adults who benefit from a group atmosphere and individual support from staff and volunteers. Executive Director Kevin Johnson is hopeful that Bishop Grady Villas will continue to be recognized as an excellent model for serving adults with disabilities.
“Bishop Grady Villas is very individualized,” said Kevin Johnson, Executive Director of BGV. “In our setting, the individual is respected. We focus on their gifts, and their special talents and give them the opportunity to share their gifts with the community,” said Johnson.
However, recent changes in federal rules for Medicaid and Medicare could impact Bishop Grady Villas in the future. In 2014, a rule was issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that relates to funding for Home and Community Based Services. The rule imposes new standards on group settings for adults with disabilities. The intent is to help individuals to be as integrated into the community as possible. There is currently a five-year implementation period for states to meet the new standards ending in 2019, however, according to Johnson, there are some concerns that Bishop Grady Villas could be viewed as an institutional setting, simply because it has a vehicular security gate that is closed overnight for the safety of residents. There are pedestrian gates that are open at all times.
Johnson agrees with the Federal Government’s initiative to promote community settings for adults with disabilities but he believes that an “array of options” is necessary to address the needs of this special group of individuals.
“It is important to have a wide range of options for individuals with disabilities so they can find a place where they may flourish,” said Johnson.
Eden, a resident of Bishop Grady Villas since 2008 is one of those individuals who has flourished at Bishop Grady Villas. She currently works at Sea World in the Food and Beverage Department, is a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud and volunteers as an usher every Sunday at the 8:30 a.m. Mass.
“Eden enjoys pottery and is taking her third class at Osceola Center for the Arts. She is active in Special Olympics in Osceola County where she competes in Track and Field, Golf and Swimming events,” said David Schumacher, Assistant Residential Programs Manager/Volunteer Coordinator.
Eden is also an ambassador for the Special Olympics, speaking to groups about this health initiative. Bishop Grady Villas has assisted Eden with her job skills and taught her how to use Lynx for transportation to and from work.
Since 2004, Bishop Grady Villas has supported persons with disabilities to use their God-given gifts to achieve greater independence, physical and emotional well-being, and spiritual growth.
By operating Bishop Grady Villas, the Catholic Church is seeking to support families who made the decision to raise their children and now as adults choose Bishop Grady Villas as the best setting for their loved ones.
For example, Barbara is legal guardian to Karen her cousin, who is blind. She promised her aunt and uncle years ago that in the event of their death she would be there to support her. While seeking for a good living arrangement for Karen, she discovered Bishop Grady Villas. Karen became a resident of Bishop Grady Villas in November of 2008 and has blossomed ever since.
“She attends Adult Day Training every day where she is re-developing her Braille skills, has learned to clean her own room, do her laundry, and most of all be a part of a wonderful household of women. She has developed the independence she has never had before,” said Barbara.
“The state of Florida is very supportive of our setting and knows that our program is designed to support people to live independently as possible and to be integrated as possible,” said Johnson.