As many of our fellow community members are aware, the Independence Center, Inc. located on 1st Avenue in Waite Park, will be ending its programing on October 31, 2018 and dissolving the corporation by the end of the year. Independence Center, Inc., or ICI as it is better known by many, has a rich and durable 40+ year history of providing service to persons with significant cognitive and physical disabilities.  Incorporated in 1976, ICI had its beginnings in Kimball, MN, moving to Waite Park in 2001, where it has remained since that time.  Interim Executive Director, Steve Bresnahan, has stepped in to lead the organization through this difficult time. “It was with great difficulty that the ICI Board voted to end operations and dissolve.  The future changes to reimbursement, regulations and work force made this the best decision for the participants and families ICI has served faithfully for so many years”.   Steve goes on to say that, “We were fortunate to have a program of WACOSA’s experience and expertise, willing to step in to keep current ICI participants and their families from experiencing a significant lapse in service.”

WACOSA has found itself partnering with ICI several times over the past decade.  “Each program has been there to support the other during both good and difficult times,” explained Steve Howard, WACOSA’s Executive Director.  “We have always viewed each other’s successes and failures as our own. The successes of those we serve, have always been part of our collective mission and vision.  We were honored to once again be able to help when ICI needed us.  They would have done the same for us.”

What’s next for ICI and WACOSA?  With the ending of ICI’s programs, WACOSA began providing services to former ICI participants on November 6, 2018.  “The continuation of services with a minimum of service interruption, environmental and personnel changes remains our primary consideration”, says WACOSA’s Vice President, Nancy Betts, who is coordinating the bulk of this transition.  “We know how stressful and challenging a time like this can be for both participants and families.  Right now everyone is pitching in to make sure staff is trained and ready to provide these services so that we can continue the good work ICI did for so many years”.  The process of transferring clients, buildings, equipment, vehicles and receiving a new program license will take time. WACOSA’s administration has been gratified to see how supportive state, county and local officials have been in cutting through red tape to move this process along.

With the transitioning of services, WACOSA expects to continue providing services in the current ICI building located at 51 1st Ave South in Waite Park.  Over time, both the physical location and service offerings will likely undergo some changes, designed to enrich the structural surroundings and service offerings.  This will involve upgrading phone and computer systems and introducing new and innovative service options for participants, among other things.  Additionally, WACOSA 1st. Ave., as it will now be known, will experience changes in branding, including signage and changes to its vehicle fleet, which will mean new logos for vehicles and/or swapping out of vehicles, along with routing that meets both participant and WACOSA’s collective need.  Right now, the majority of former ICI staff have been hired by WACOSA to continue providing services at the WACOSA 1st Ave. location.  WACOSA’s administration hopes this will help to keep participants and families from becoming overly anxious during this change.  WACOSA expects the 1st Ave. location will dovetail nicely into its existing menu of service opportunities.  Part of WACOSA’s newly developing strategic plan is to expand its services, both to those with higher, medical needs, as well as individuals who will eventually need services designed specifically for seniors.  As it happens, participant demographics of those formerly served by ICI meet this definition perfectly.