Technical Assistance Program supports Healthy Community Living Program Facilitators

August 19, 2021

Over the past six months, RTC:Rural has been working with staff from Centers for Independent Living (CILs)  to build the Healthy Community Living Technical Assistance Program (TAP) in partnership with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL). TAP is a peer support and team building model that supports CIL staff who are new to implementing the Healthy Community Living (HCL) program. Healthy Community Living includes consumer workshops and facilitator trainings for organizations that serve people with disabilities. The program’s independent living skills-based workshops include: Community Living Skills, Living Well in the Community, Working Well with a Disability, and a training on Facilitating Groups.

The first cohort of CIL TAP members consisted of 22 staff from 14 CILs in 13 states. RTC:Rural and APRIL conducted weekly meetings to provide technical assistance and support for facilitating HCL workshops online and in-person.

Healthy Community Living, APRIL Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, and RTC:Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities logos.

Topics covered in the weekly meetings were designed to build self-efficacy among the new HCL facilitators and assist them with program start-up, outreach, consumer recruitment, retention and engagement and conducting the workshops at their Centers. Veteran HCL facilitators from CILs across the country joined the group to present and speak about their experiences. They shared useful, supportive, and relevant knowledge with their CIL peers. 

Dori Tempio, a long time HCL Program advisor and facilitator from ABLE South Carolina, shared her perspective about TAP.  “[It] is a wonderful experience and opportunity for you to learn from your peers and grow together as facilitators. As a presenter for the program, it was a joy for me to gain insight into different facilitators’ presentation styles as well as resources for connecting with participants. In addition, presenting to the group allowed us to collaborate as peers, which helps strengthen the rapport between individuals, thus modeling peer engagement to consumers in the HCL program.”

Feedback from other TAP participants suggest it was a success as well, sharing that they feel more at ease about working with consumers in any type of workshop setting because of the peer support and facilitation practice they experienced in the weekly team meetings. Facilitators stated that the gatherings played a large role in building their confidence and competence to conduct successful HCL workshops. “I enjoyed working with HCL TAP as it connected me with other organizations and facilitators to learn from. I noticed as the program went on that my skills enhanced and I became a more confident facilitator thanks to this program,” shared Jenny Duffek with the League of Human Dignity in Lincoln, NE.

“Being new to my role as Center Coordinator for Mounting Horizons Inc., the training workshops and networking facilitated by HCL were a Godsend! I don’t have to re-invent the wheel. My staff and I were provided resources that we can readily put to use. Thank you to the HCL team!” shared Curtistine Spates White, Dickinson, TX

As the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for APRIL, Mary Willard was very pleased with the level of engagement she saw happen in TAP.  “For me, building peer support opportunities for IL staff is always magical. The connection around common experiences with Independent Living skills training and then sharing creative approaches to address similar barriers experienced by peers across the country always inspires and re-energizes me to move forward in our work at APRIL.” 

As the TAP wraps up, the impact and connection established from it will not. While the program’s intent was to support those implementing the program at CILs, RTC:Rural staff benefited as well. Tannis Hargrove, Project Director of Healthy Community Living said, “I really enjoyed working with the HCL TAP teams. Getting to see the curriculums presented each week allowed me to see the content come to life, and I greatly enjoyed participating in discussion with the teams about group facilitation and independent living. It was a very fun and interesting way to learn more about how individual CIL staff plan to use the program at their organizations.”

The TAP participants have chosen to continue to meet monthly on their own to maintain the peer support and continue to share tips with one another as they offer HCL workshops.

For more information about Healthy Community Living, please send inquiries to healthycommunityliving@mso.umt.edu or call 888-268-2743.