Over 70 years ago a determined group of parents joined together to launch the United Cerebral Palsy of Monmouth & Ocean Counties. It was 1949 and they were looking for a way to provide therapy for their children with cerebral palsy. Just three years later they incorporated United Cerebral Palsy of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and by 1956-57 they opened a school and a preschool. In 1978 their adult programs began. For the next seven decades the organization continued to aggressively grow and expand, acquiring more land and opening new facilities in order to increase the number of opportunities they could offer to their community, including a focus on maintaining group homes and supporting the initiatives necessary to enable independent living.  In 2003 as the Cerebral Palsy of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, Inc. celebrated 54 years of positive outcomes for their clients, they announced an exciting name change. The nonprofit organization was branded as LADACIN Network, an acronym based on their critical mission of providing Lifetime Assistance for Developmental and Challenging Individual Needs.

Today, LADACIN Network enjoys a strong reputation as a nonprofit agency whose mission is to provide a continuum of care that encompasses programs ranging from educational, therapeutic, social, residential, and support services to infants, children, and adults with complex physical and developmental disabilities or delays. From its first roots in 1949, and its subsequent incorporation in 1952 to provide therapy solutions for its founding families, the Agency has served over 3,500 individuals and their families and operates 14 facilities in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, though, they have had to quickly reinvent many of their service delivery platforms and find new ways to support their clients while addressing the limitations brought by this emergency situation.

It all starts at the top. Patti Carlesimo, Executive Director, began her career with LADACIN Network as a speech pathologist in 1979 and was named Executive Director in 2004. Starting in early March with the onset of the coronavirus in the United States, under her guidance and with the expertise of her administrative team the agency quickly moved to embrace a menu of on-line tools and relevant resources so that no clients were left without access to critical programs.

Like all great leaders, Patti knows that communication is key at any time, but especially in emergency circumstances. She has scheduled frequent calls with the Board of Directors, and administrators keeping everyone informed and prepared for the significant changes that are on the horizon.

The obstacles of the pandemic are especially difficult for LADACIN because of the breadth of its network and its commitment to providing the best care possible to the special population it serves.

To move the organization to the highest levels of preparedness, Patti is working closely with the organization’s more than 600 staff as they undergo training on the application of telehealth and virtual learning, technologies recognized industry-wide as the most effective platform when in-person visits are impossible. Working closely with the Department of Health and participating in their robust educational training programs, the Early Intervention staff has gained new competencies and is now able to provide families with telehealth support – guaranteeing privacy with technology that is encrypted from end-to-end. 180 LADACIN therapists are typically on the road every day, developing an essential presence in family homes where they deliver services and programs for children age zero to three years. They are in the process of successfully establishing IT sessions with over 50% of the families - helping them understand how to leverage the technology to stay in touch when a person on-site visit is not possible.

In addition, LADACIN maintains nine residential group homes, and offers direct care supports through four adult day programs for those who have aged out of school, providing life skills and pre-employment training.  These programs present significant challenges in the face of COVID-19. But like the Board of Directors, the staff is completely committed to fulfilling their mission. Its nine residential locations are fully operational with close to 90 clients receiving 24/7 supports and services. Kudos to the heroic staff working every day to ensure their safety.

They have completely transformed the school system, comprised of the Lehmann and Schroth Schools, utilizing ClassDojo to instantly communicate and engage with families and the students while the schools remain physically closed. Keeping the families involved and occupied is a major objective of the online learning when in-class opportunities are no longer an option. The schools’ virtual learning option was made possible through the knowledge and commitment of management staff and the fortuitous switch to a web-based curriculum allowing for a near- seamless transition. The child care program is closed however the head teacher is also communicating with families through ClassDojo to provide support and resources.

All of this effort to reinvent the way services are delivered are based on a sincere passion for the mission and vision of LADACIN. While funding for some programs has been reduced by more than 25%, the leadership is focused on doing everything it can to keep the staff engaged and involved. As more changes take place during the healthcare crisis, the administrators, the staff and volunteer Board leaders are working together as a tightly knit team, assuring their clients are well cared for – for as long as it takes!