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Jul 7, 2021

Full Transcript


In episode 3, Dave Doukas, Connecticut General VR director, and Nicky Harper, director of Wyoming Combined join Host Carol Pankow to talk about state rehabilitation councils and the V.R. partnership, through the lens of a newer director with Nicky and a more seasoned director like Dave. From roles, responsibilities and overall effectiveness, you will learn how they are working through and building colaboritive partnerships through communication and by building trust through understanding and transparency.

Learn about the modules launching in October that will help to provide training for state agency staff and help SRC members in the regulatory background of the SRC roles and responsibilities and that partnership.


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Partnering with State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) to enhance service delivery and maximize outcomes through quality program and resource management. 

The purpose of the VRTAC-QM is to provide training and technical assistance that will enable State VR agency personnel to manage available resources, improve effective service delivery, and increase the number and quality of employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The VRTAC-QM provides TA and training in VR program and performance quality management, fiscal and resource quality management of the VR program, and general quality management of organizations. You can request technical assistance from the VRTAC-QM by contacting your TA Liaison directly, contacting any member of the Center you wish, or by filling out the information on our main website and clicking on submit. While on the main website, join our mailing list to receive updates on training and new activities occurring within the center. 


Full Transcript:


Speaker1: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for quality management. Conversations powered by V.R., one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host, Carol Pankow.


Carol Pankow: So welcome to the show today I'm joined by Dave Doukas, Connecticut general VR director, and Nicky Harper, director of Wyoming Combined. So, Dave, welcome to the show. How are you doing and how goes it in Connecticut?


Dave Doukas: Well, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk with you today, Carol. We're doing OK in Connecticut, coming back from the impact of the pandemic and reopening many of our offices just this month. So things are moving forward for us.


Carol Pankow: Cool. Good to hear it. Good to hear it. So, Nicky, how are things rolling in Wyoming?


Nicky Harper: Good morning, Carol. Well, morning for me, I think. Afternoon for you. Things in Wyoming are going well. Today actually is our first day when everyone is pretty much back in the office more or less full time. So we're ready to get back to some sense of normalcy. I would say hopefully. Fingers crossed.


Carol Pankow: Wow. Sounds good. Well, both of your agencies came up as good agencies to talk to about our topic of state rehabilitation councils and the V.R. partnership. And so I don't know if you guys know this, but I did a little digging and there have been 76 director changes since November, 2013 through December of 2020. And there's been a large turnover in SRC membership and it really is kind of a timely time to explore this topic and look at it through the lens of a newer director with Nicky and a more seasoned director like Dave. So we've heard about wide swings in the level of partnership between V.R. and the SRC and also the level of effectiveness. I know that sometimes relationships can be strained between the council and the agency. There can be misunderstandings and roles, and things aren't always operating as effectively as they could. And in fact, our VRTAC for Quality Management is working on a project to update four different modules that will help to provide training for both SRC members and state agency staff in the regulatory background of the SRC roles and responsibilities and that partnership. And we're looking at launching those by October of this year. So, Dave, I'm going to start with you. Let's get a little lay of the land about the SRC for your agency. So can you talk a little bit briefly about how they operate, meeting schedules and generally of how it works? And do you have a staff person dedicated to primarily working with the SRC as a liaison to them from the agency?


Dave Doukas: Sure. In general, the SRC operates underneath bylaws. They follow Robert's Rules. There is a chairperson, a vice chair, secretary and a treasurer are confirmed annually by membership vote. We meet six times a year, generally three hours per meeting. The agenda is set up by the SRC staff and approved by their chair. I attend every SRC meeting, either myself or if I can't make it, I have my assistant director go in my place, but most of the time I'm able to attend. And yes, we do have a dedicated staff person who she's not a one hundred percent dedication to the SRC. She has many other responsibilities, but she's primarily assigned as the liaison and works with them very closely on setting the agenda and organizing the meetings. We have a twenty five thousand year budget set aside for the SRC, so we do create a small pot of money for them to be able to run projects. And things of that nature. I think it runs really smoothly.


Carol Pankow: That sounds really good. We had done a similar thing as well. I liked having that staff person dedicated to helping kind of smooth out all the things, the logistics that go into each of those meetings. So, Nicky, how about you? Let's get a little lay of the land about how you guys operate and your SRC, how they operate?


Nicky Harper: Somewhat similar, Carol, I guess, to what Dave said. We have about four to five meetings. So prior to COVID with the pretty regular quarterly meetings and we had a dedicated chair, vice chair. But like you mentioned, there's been quite a bit of turnover and we've had some recent turnover. We also so not have a dedicated assigned person, but we do have a program manager who is the SRC liaison. So connecting between the field, their staff, and the governor's office and so on and so forth. It does help to have an assigned person for that role. We have a twenty thousand dollar budget set aside for SRC needs and again, for most people, travel and some projects. But this year, because of travel restrictions of quite a bit of that budget hasn't been spent. And I'm guessing it might be the case in some other areas as well. So like I said, they were doing in-person meetings, but currently everything is virtual.


Carol Pankow: All right. So, Nikki, you are a newer VR director. How did your understanding of the SRC shift from your role when you were a VR agency staff to that of the director? And did you have any surprises or that kind of an Aha sort of moment?


Nicky Harper: Well, I guess I would say I didn't quite understand the scope or the entire responsibilities of the. SRC so as a field person, I mean, Wyoming is a tiny state, so we've been pretty fortunate where we've always had an idea who the SRC was. We've always had the opportunity when their meetings would meet in person, depending on which community they were, and we would have the opportunity to sit in on meetings. So I had some concepts, but when I first came on, I was like, oh, my gosh, why are they asking me all these questions and am I answering to them or do I have to answer to RSA? And part of me kind of. It was hard not to get sideways about why are you asking me about, you know, the program planning and the program effectiveness and just more input into the state plan. So I tried not to get all fired up, so I just kind of dug into the CFR and really tried to take a good look at the scope and responsibility of the SRC and that helped. And then I also reached out to Paul Jedinak, who is with the Center for Continuing Education in rehab at the University of Washington. I had gone through a program with emerging leaders through them. So I kind of felt, you know, I need to reach out to someone to figure out, am I going about this the wrong way? So I did have some of those. Oh, this is why they're asking me all these questions moments. Sorry for the long answer.


Carol Pankow: No, that's a really good insight. And hence our wanting to focus on this. And we're working on these modules because we realize the information that had been out there. There used to be modules. They were done about 20 years ago. They needed to be updated. And we realized, you know, directors don't have very good information about the SRC. So I'm hoping what we create is going to definitely help other folks that are coming in new to the field or just new to that role. So you understand what is happening with the SRC. You had to learn kind of on your own, and I'm hoping we'll be able to help people with that.


Nicky Harper: That'll be really helpful just to have kind of a director guide, so to speak. You know, RSA has some guidance, but about these are some additional guides to help you navigate the way.


Carol Pankow: Yes. So, Dave, you were once a new director and now you're more seasoned. I mean, you're six years in now. So how is your approach and working with SRC shifted over time?


Dave Doukas: You know, what kind of building off the last question, you really don't appreciate the spot you're in as a director until you're in that chair. I've been in VR for thirty years and I became director six years ago and I had attended SRC meetings over the course of the twenty four preceding years, but never really appreciated the spot that my predecessors were in until I assumed that responsibility. The thing that's really changed for me over the course of the last six years has been my comfort level, put a lot of effort into into building trust with the SRC, took the time to really try to educate them as to where we were coming from, what our strategies were, and what the logic is behind our decisions that we're making. In turn, the SRC was very skeptical of me when I joined because they had seen I had a track record and had been involved in things that maybe weren't. They were done out of necessity, but weren't the most appreciated as in, get it popular decision ever had to be made. You know, you get into things with order of selection or changing of policy, implementation of cost containment measures out of complete necessity. And they don't always play so well if you're on the receiving end of services. There was the skepticism on the part of the SRC and who they thought I might have been. But over time, I think that they've learned a lot more about me and where I've come from and what I'm aiming to do and in turn have built a lot of trust with them to be able to say, here's the honest deal, here's transparently this is what we're doing and why. And what do you think about it? What would you do if you were in this situation type of conversations? And they've really helped. And it's built a pretty good relationship over the period of those last six years.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, I love that you said that that word trust because that resonated with me. I just remember coming into Minnesota and, you know, they had different directors that have been there a really long time. And you come in there like, who are you and what are you going to do and what do you know and what's your approach going to be? So I completely, completely can understand that. I love that you said that. I just do remember back to my time in Minnesota and feeling like our leadership team really understood the role of the SRC. But, boy, it was a huge mystery to the field staff and they seem to have this misunderstanding of what the SRC was all about. So, Dave, do you feel like your staff has a good understanding about the purpose of your SRC?


Dave Doukas: I think that my leadership staff and maybe even field level managers understand the SRC and the role. We talk about it a lot and the liaison I mentioned before and myself are in these leadership meetings. And we we give a quarterly update on what's happening with the SRC and we let them know. So I think that they have a pretty good understanding of the role. But if you asked your average bear field level council what their understanding of the SRC is, it's going to be minimal. I think they know of its existence, but they in general don't really have a true appreciation for why they're there.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, I could I understand that, you know, our folks, they were kind of like sort of they were sort of suspicious or see what you guys doing or what are they doing, what's their role, whatever are they doing to us or something. So it's hard to get that out to that field level understanding.


Dave Doukas: Yeah, well, one of the things that we've done to try to mitigate that is we invite the SRC to obviously all the public meetings that we have and we invite our field staff as well. We try to get them to mingle together a little bit to so that they can they can understand each other a little more. Yes. Our Council also invites our field level staff on occasion to come to our Council meetings to present on what their day in the life is kind of like. So sometimes it can be more topically specific. Other times just like, well, tell us what it's like working in this small local office and what your experiences in dealing with your consumers. And I think that really helps a lot as well.


Carol Pankow: That's a really cool idea. You're kind of into our next question. The cool thing is your agency doing. But I'm going to back up a second to Nikki. So how about for your agency? Do you feel like your staff has a good understanding about the purpose of the SRC? And maybe I'll just jump ahead to any kind of cool things you guys are doing to help them understand about the SRC and its purpose?


Nicky Harper: No, Carol, I think I would piggyback a little bit on what Dave just said in terms of senior leadership or counselors who've been here, maybe, you know, say senior counselors five years plus probably have a decent understanding, like Dave mentioned or I mentioned earlier, to many sources were held regionally. There was always a component. So this might be a cool thing we do or maybe every SRC does this where I staff are invited to come in and talk about different projects that they're doing. So the SRC could have a better understanding of what was happening in VR. But also this will talk about their role and their purpose and their involvement in advising and guiding. We are. So that has helped some. But again, like they've said, maybe the newer counselors, maybe two years. And under that, probably like just another acronym that we use in, we are some entity that we have to give reports out to. But I did pick up something from what Dave mentioned, just about the quarterly updates to staff that we do monthly. We are all on calls which started that with COVID. Then I was thinking, oh, that'll be nice to incorporate that and maybe invite the SRC chair to share a little bit about what they are, a little bit about some of their projects or ideas, or ask the field for where they need help.


Nicky Harper: So thank you, Dave. As you're speaking, I'm like, oh, I'm taking down tidbits on what we might be able to do. So in terms of other cool and stuff to ensure that we have the knowledge of SRC and its purpose. We are, like I said, trying to do more regional stuff. And then the SRC also sometimes they'll host different community meetings with maybe community providers, some of our crps, maybe. So they have an understanding of who we are. Or some time ago they did something with benefits planning, where they were inviting the community to talk more about VR. And at that time they would invite the VR counselors for that region as well. So that was more connections happening. But since COVID, a lot of that stuff kind of has been put on the back burner. But I'm hoping that with restrictions being eased that we can start maybe getting back to doing a little more of that really so that folks see SRC and we are really working in collaboration. And not that this one entity and we are another entity and where we kind of get a little sideways sometimes.


Carol Pankow: Well, yeah. So I can see why you two were I was told to talk to you to about SRC. I think that's really cool. I'm learning a lot too. I wish I would have been talking to you guys a long time ago. So we've talked about is VR understanding the SRC, but on the other side of the spectrum is the SRC’s understanding of VR. So I'm going to go to you first, Dave. Do you believe that SRC understands VR and their roles for VR purposes? And can you tell me a little more about any thoughts you have


Dave Doukas: Sometimes SRC members have a great understanding of VOC rehab, but other times they're really coming in cold. If they just joined, you know, you have everything really in between. Perhaps the most difficult situation is when a new member has an impression that's been on an outdated fact or just being misinformed. So there's a lot of work of having to undo some preconceived notions about about the program or what their expectations should be. So what we really do is to try to put the team members in a position for their thoughts to be heard on things. You know, we phrase questions or discussions in a way that's going to empower them for the opportunity for them to offer what they're. Might be you talk through issues and we try to present them in a way that enlightens them to the implications of the decision you're going to make and the possible implications for other consumers. So there's a lot of education that goes on. And certainly most SRC members don't have the really nuanced understanding of how it all works. But you have a wide range of capabilities because of the required distribution of your SRC membership. You have people coming from with different agendas and different fragments of knowledge of someone who's representing community rehabilitation providers is going to have a purchase, a service scope of frame of reference. And they're going to come at everything from that direction where a board member from American Jobs Center or Workforce Investment Board is going to have a different slant on things. So try and establish the common base of knowledge is an important thing. And really, I think just talking about things in a way that allows for people to have the discussion is really the most helpful thing that you can do.


Carol Pankow: That sounds really good. It's kind of the beauty of the answer. See all those people coming at it from all those different perspectives? It's what makes for a really rich process because you hear all of that different opinions from different ways. I love how you said that about helping them with the way you're even phrasing the questions so you can draw that out as really good. So, Nicky, how about you? What do you believe about sources and their understanding of V.R. and their roles and SRC's purpose, basically, and kind of what your thoughts are about all that?


Nicky Harper: Gasps Dave just gave a really eloquent answer. And I'm going I'm struggling a little bit. So this is actually a concern area for me, for Wyoming in general. We had quite a bit of senior membership on SRC. Yes. I'm just going to backtrack a little bit for historical purposes. So several years ago, that wasn't overly functional. Then they'd put quite a bit of work into it, had a chair who was phenomenal, just did a lot of work, really got the membership going, really did a lot of education to understand. And then, you know, folks served second terms and then terms were up. It's like, OK, this is what this is the time you can serve. So we have some very new SRC members, six months new SRC chair, the wise chap. Gosh, I don't I don't know, probably about the same time frame. So in terms of the knowledge and their understanding of we are, I think we really have to do some building ground up again, really start engaging in more conversations and being open to feedback and thoughts of, you know, what are your thoughts? How do you feel this is going? What are some of your needs? Like I said, sometimes we tend to I don't want to say get sideways, but depending on where that person is coming in with the recipe or the coming with that lens. And it's like, well, there's a whole lot more to be than just that lens. So let's talk a little more about education. Let's talk a little more about what you see, how you understand our role or how we're doing things. And I liked how Dave said it's about, you know, phrasing questions a certain way as well. So we do try to encourage attendance at NCSRC and CSAVR. See, and one of I think the membership is ending actually was a board member on NCSRC, so was able to bring back a lot of rich information to Wyoming. Like I said, there's a lot of turnover and a lot of new members. So I'm struggling to answer that question a little bit.


Carol Pankow: No, you did just fine. You did just fine.


Dave Doukas: I'd like to add something. I mean, I need to give a shout out to my liaison who who works with the SRC. She schedules an annual retreat with them every fall to set some goals for the upcoming year and that it's a daylong event and Connecticut's a small enough state that most people have been able to actually make it for a single day event. I think that does a lot to kind of build the culture of the SRC. It allows them to spend time together and to really be able to understand the purpose of their being there, to get some reassurance that we're all in this together and trying to to build the better mousetrap of a VOC rehab program. And I think that sets a really important tone for the relationship for the year that follows especially important with so many new members. The term limits definitely is something that makes it difficult, because just when someone's starting to get to the place where they're really productive, their term is up and they have to move on. And I think that being able to keep the culture going through those retreats and have a transition period is really helpful and it keeps momentum moving forward.


Carol Pankow: I love that idea of the retreat. I know different states have talked about that. We had done it in the past and then it kind of depended sometimes people, depending on the group that was in I mean, it takes some obligation on their part because the. Volunteering to come for a day to do that, but I love that thought and where it's possible to make that happen. I think that's really great that you guys are doing that,


Nicky Harper: Stealing that one day. I'm going to pass that along.


Dave Doukas: Absolutely I'm really excited about the training that Carol's working to put together. I know that my liaison has invested a lot of time in that, too. So I think that it's going to be really helpful to have those modules put together and in a way, for people to start building their knowledge base even really before getting engaged.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, we're really excited about that. And we are working with the NCSRC, so we're actually meeting with them this week about that. We've got it kind of stepped out across the summer into September and we wanted to be able to have them ready to launch for the fall conferences and be able to talk about that. So we're hoping, fingers crossed, nothing goes wrong. We're hoping to have those all done. That's awesome. You know, you talked a little bit about this, but sometimes there can be this conflict between the SRC and an agency. And I just wondered if you've addressed any moments or situations where that happened and how did you get that to work out. So, Dave, I'm going to shoot that to you.


Dave Doukas: I think the first thing is just having patience with the personal or professional agendas that I was referencing before hearing people out on those things, understanding their world, understanding where they're coming from so that you can answer things from a position of, OK, I hear your point. I think that diffuses a lot of things, being able to say, well, yes, we could do this, but this is the impact it's going to have elsewhere. So you sure we really should be doing this? And that's the chair that we find ourselves in so often. I think that's really helpful in times where it's gotten really dicey and it has probably the most strategic thing we did was invoke the SRC leadership to address their members on. Do you want this to be your agenda for these meetings that we're all having together? Because if you allow this type of behavior, it's going to alter my ability to continue to be as transparent as I am and to talk as openly and freely. So sometimes people will grab on to an issue and they just will bring up meeting after meeting after meeting it. And it can be very exhausting and not only for those of us in the VR side, but for the other SRC members to trying to encourage the strength and their chairperson to set the agenda and follow the agenda when necessary and try to really manage their group is a is a good strategic move, I think.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, I love that. That's great. That's good advice to Nicky. I've taken that one too.


Nicky Harper: Yes, and I am furiously trying to write notes.


Carol Pankow: You could write a manual on this like holy smokes. So Nicky, how about you? Have you had any kind of situations you've had to work through or there's been some conflict?


Nicky Harper: We have actually it was like right as I came on, so I was trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. And then it's like, oh, and there's this entity that's asking me all these questions. So what worked for me and just my style, I guess, was just setting aside some time out of the SRC meetings. And like Dave said, I tried to attend every SRC meeting, if possible. If not, one of my deputies attends to make sure information is flowing back and forth. And really, I try to understand the why, like, you know, Dave indicated trying to understand, okay, where are you coming from? Where is this stemming from? Is this professional or personal? And that's where, you know, and we've been in the real world. We have we're counselors at heart. So it's like put on that counselor hat and listen and try to figure out, OK, what's going on and how do we how do we partner and this how do we come out together? It's really had to have some of those conversations and understanding about, OK, what are you trying to get at and what is your goal and how is this aligning with the agency goal or with the SRC goals and the agency goals to advocate for our people to make things better for staff, for clients, so on and so forth. So really boiled down in my case to being able to have some offline chats. You know, sometimes conversations get a little bit derailed during a meeting. And again, sometimes it's a personal agenda that folks want answers and they want it right then right there. So it's served us well to kind of go back and kind of regroup, talk things through, and maybe we come up with a solution. We compromise saying, OK, something maybe the agency can do. Is this something the staff is willing to do that has seemed to work for us, at least so far it's working.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, I know. I like that. That is great. You both are so wise. So I know we've talked about director turnover and we know there's been turnover in the SRCs. And I know, Nicky, you talked about turnover in your state. I'm actually going to address this to you. Sometimes there can be issues with just even getting the governor to appoint people and you've got all that going on and changes in administrations. So I just wondered if you were having any issues with recruitment and appointment of positions in your state, and how are you addressing those?


Nicky Harper: If my camera was working and she may see me shaking my head, yes, that is quite the challenge, actually. And I'm not exactly sure where the breakdown in communication has happened in terms of getting some of the appointments. So we've had some members frequently talking to the liaison in the liaison is constantly communicating with the governor's office. OK, the application has been submitted. Where are we with this? And also it's just a committee that volunteered that commitment on part of the SRC member. And Wyoming is just a small state. And sometimes you find the same folks being tapped for different councils. And it's like, oh, this person is pretty active in that community. This person is a really good advocate for individuals with disabilities. So then they're kind of tapped out and then I can't serve on one more council. So we try to work with other state agencies trying to have, you know, when we have director meetings or leadership meetings, another director says, hey, I need representation for this council. So then in turn we say, OK, then I need representation from your agency. But this council, these are the roles, again, sometimes there are advantages to being a small state that most folks know. Most folks, we can reach out, pick up the phone, send an email, say we need some assistance for representation of an individual who will be committed to speak up to help meet the needs of this population. And sometimes, again, because of turnover, an individual may serve for for a year, that they start understanding the roles and responsibilities they get attached to a committee. They start, you know, doing some work and then they move on from that position. So then it's like, OK, great, now we're back at square one. So it is a challenge. I'm really curious what Dave's doing. He says he has some awesome answers and I'm ready to take notes again.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, Dave will kick it to you. Do you, sir, do you have any issues with recruitment and appointment of positions and what are you doing about that?


Dave Doukas: Well, if I had my camera on me shaking my head to the issue of the governor, being able to appoint people is it's a really difficult one and it's a historical one. Changes with administrations, the personnel that you have to work with at the governor's office. And it certainly changes even more frequently than that. And just when you think you have a viable path to getting everyone appointed who you need, something happens and it doesn't happen. It's really frustrating on that front. Appointments can be held up for years. So that being said, what we try to do is have an ongoing recruitment where if we see someone who seems to be advocating for the program, have some knowledge or interest in the program, who's an outside stakeholder of some sort, we'll just reach out and say, hey, how would you like to talk to our SRC chair? And here's an opportunity for you to contribute to us in a meaningful way, in a structured environment. So we do that. We will go after different groups. I mentioned earlier the workforce investment boards. We just put it out to them that we need membership, we need someone to represent you, and someone step up and join this council. So we'll go after it in a targeted way like that as well. And just keeping our eyes and ears open all the time.


Carol Pankow: That sounds awesome. That's great. So you guys are talking about a lot of things. Nicky’s taking notes. I'm going to go and Nicky to you first. You have tips for directors and things that have worked for you or other words of wisdom and working with SRC.


Nicky Harper: I'm not sure I say words of wisdom, but I guess, you know, back to the communication. And I think sometime ago Dave mentioned about trust. Dave came up through the process, as did I. And like I mentioned, Wyoming is a small state. So I did have a little bit of an advantage coming in that at that time, the SRC chair and I, we just go back years where she worked for the school district and I was a transition counselor working in the school district. So we already had an established relationship. So I just built on that. And it was about, you know, having some really candid conversations and being open to feedback. Sometimes the feedback was not always pleasant. And it was it's hard not to take it personally, because I think when the director of a program, it's like, this is my baby. This is, you know, and now you're saying that we're not doing this right or something else. Right. Or we could have done better. It's a little bit of a sting, but it's trying to take it as, OK, this is just constructive feedback and how do I stay open to it? How do I not get defensive about it? Again, another thing that helped us was talking about what work that way, instances of things that did work and there were times when they were not happy with us. So, for instance, working on the state plan collaboratively at one time, they were frustrated that we didn't always take feedback that was given. And looking back, I do see that they are putting in a lot of time and effort into giving constructive feedback or asking certain questions, and sometimes we're just, you know, buried in trying to get the state plan done and all the edits and all the corrections and making sure that we're hitting all the areas we need to hit.


Nicky Harper: And, you know, suggestions are coming in every direction. And you're just like, oh, my gosh, OK, I don't have space to squeeze this in. I don't have time. I just need to move on. And it's not fair to folks who take a lot of time and effort to really give you valid feedback. So having that conversation about, you know, they felt appreciated and that we heard them out in some areas or areas, that they gave feedback in policy development and they felt that we didn't take that feedback and was like, oh, it's not that we didn't take the feedback. We submitted it to our SRC. It was good for us to move forward. So being proactive about some of those conversations and saying, OK, we are looking at this policy and we are looking at updating these areas, we'd like for your input. We'd like to work in collaboration. I think that seems to help some. So I don't know if there's a magic source. And maybe Dave has some magical words of wisdom on how how to make things better. But for us, it's a work in progress. And hopefully by the time I get to six or seven that I can say, yes, we have looked through and these are some of the things we're doing to make things better.


Carol Pankow: Yeah, that's awesome. So, David, do you have a magic source that you want to share?


Dave Doukas: Well, I don't know about the magic part, but I can tell you that you can think of it in a way almost like a college class. Go back to your freshman year at college when half the battle was just getting out of bed and showing up. And I think the SRC can be like that when you're starting out saying, I don't care what fraternity party I was at last night, I'm going to go. And I think it makes you human. And if you go in and are trying to be open and I'll say accepting of criticism, but also saying, well, this is what I think about our program and here's where I think our deficits are. And here's what I'm aiming to try to do something about it. You're going to build that trust with them because you're coming from a position of saying it's an imperfect program and I'm trying to manage a lot of aspects of it. Here's one that I know of. Here's another that I know of. What do you got? Just be real talk about the data and the performance of the program and say let them know what you think of it at that moment in time. And I think those kind of candid, transparent conversations about things are really going to have the best benefit in terms of them saying, OK, well, I can talk to this person and I can share what's bothering them because they may not like it either. At least it gives you an opportunity to respond fairly and to let them know this is on my high priority list or oh, maybe this should be on a high priority list. I didn't know it. I didn't see it. And it gives them an opportunity for you to value their opinion and contribution.


Carol Pankow: Well, you’ve always been a straight shooter. I like that about you. You just call it like it is, which is great in that whole transparency. I think that's probably served you well there. So we're going to close up. I'm going to ask you each for one thing you think would help improve the work between sources and agencies across the country. And Nicky, I'm going to go to you.


Nicky Harper: It feels like it's a loaded question and I'm like them, has all the magical answers. So from a new director, I would say if you're coming from VR, I think you do have a slight advantage of maybe having some basic concepts of what is exactly what they do. I mean, you're trying to read so much information coming at you. You're like, OK, SRC, there is this CFR that you're trying to dig in. I think for me at least, what really worked was just sitting down and having some candid conversations about what are their goals, what are my goals for the agency, what are the priorities and do they align and sometimes understanding that, oh, OK, I did not see this as a priority at this point in time. And this is why and it always helps to explain the why behind why the agency is making this decision or if they feel that they want to know that the agency needs to do something. Asking for more information on why the SRC thought that that was something we need to focus on. I'm also learning to ask for more support and help from the SRC. So when certain topics are brought up sometimes that maybe the agency needs to address, I'm pretty straightforward to in saying at this time, we don't have the bandwidth. We we're trying to do the best we can with the resources we have. And that's the SRC sees it as a priority that would, at the end of the day, help the client. Can we have a small group of field counselors and a couple of SRC members maybe take lead and develop something and pilot something? So again, just conversations and choosing to be real and authentic and say, hey, in theory, this sounds great, but in practice, is this feasible? This may work in a logistics. Or another state, but is this going to work in rural Wyoming and just like they've said, being real and just having real conversations, sometimes hard and awkward conversations, but having it nonetheless and figuring out how we're going to move forward?


Carol Pankow: It’s all about the communication. So, David, you get the last words.


Dave Doukas: Well, if this was 10 years ago when purchasing food was a little bit easier in the VOC rehab program, I know that oversized chocolate chip cookies used to work really well for the previous administrations. But today I'll say that I think the one thing that would really help would just be being present to show up for the meetings, let them get to know you as an individual and as a leader if you're the director. And that would help set the tone for the entire relationship. Again, I think everyone's here for a common purpose and being present for those conversations, listening, actively listening, and whether you agree or not, just treating the membership with respect and giving them an opportunity to voice their concerns and react to them. That's the basic angle that I've taken here and doing OK with it.


Carol Pankow: Well, thank you both for joining me today. This was great. I can see why you two were suggested to talk to you both did a great job and I really appreciate talking about this subject. So thanks again. And I wish you the best with all this opening back up and good success with that.


Nicky Harper: Thank you.


Dave Doukas: Thank you, Carol.


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