Project Coordinator Sharon Alderman attributes recognition, in part, to the growth of Vermont's AT School Exchange
Congratulations are in order to the Vermont Assistive Technology (VT AT) Reuse Project. In June the project received the 2011 Governor's Award for Environmental Conservation Excellence in Justice and Sustainability. VT AT Reuse initiatives include the Medicaid Equipment Reuse Project (recapturing publically-funded durable medical equipment for those who need it), the Assistive Technology Exchange in New England (a Craig's list style device "swap and shop"), and the Assistive Technology Exchange for Vermont Schools (helping share equipment among schools). "We received the award because our programs effectively and uniquely achieve the award's ideals," notes VT AT Reuse Coordinator Sharon Alderman. "We're lucky to operate in a state that values both environmental conservation and economic justice." Indeed, in federal fiscal year 2010, VT AT Reuse helped find a second life for over 285 Adapted Vehicles, DME and AT items, keeping many devices out of landfills and closets and in the hands of Vermonters with disabilities.
AT School Swap Now Includes 57% of Vermont's Supervisory Unions/Districts
Alderman is particularly encouraged by the growth of the AT Exchange for Vermont Schools (AT School Swap). The initiative helps Vermont schools share AT for the benefit of students with special needs. In June of 2009, nine months after launch, the AT School Swap had 16 VT Supervisory Unions signed on to share unused AT. As of October 2011, the program has grown to include 34 participating Supervisory Unions, 57% of the state's total. "It's steady growth. It doesn't yet reflect big savings to schools--just $19,000 in FY2010--but we're getting there."
The AT School Swap concept began as a way to keep devices out of school closets and with students who need them. As student needs change or they graduate or move out of district, many items go unused. By learning about and agreeing to exchange unutilized equipment, schools would have affordable fast access to AT. The first task, however, was getting schools on board.
Alderman believes Vermont is succeeding because it's flexible with how people use and access the School Swap. Participants do not have to share or sell anything they don't want to, and they learn about available and needed equipment in different ways. "We started with a web-based approach akin to the getATstuff platform [the Web site for the AT Exchange in New England]. But we realized that the School Swap site would have to be just one tool among many needed to establish a reuse network with schools." Alderman estimates that 40-50% of AT School Swap users do not make use of the Web site directly and prefer email and the toll free number. "Monthly email updates are a reminder that we're here, that equipment is available, and it puts school system needs under the noses of authorized swap-users around the state. Swap participants don't have to remember to periodically go to the site to search equipment. But we are encouraging them to post there, and slowly it is happening."
A web-based school swap system may be achievable, even inevitable, down the road. But in the meantime, Alderman's "coordinator" position is aptly titled. Alderman and her interns learn of available equipment, and devices sought, by phone and email (often in response to their monthly email), and frequently connect donors and sellers with recipients.
An AT Reuse Concierge?
Providing reuse "concierge" services is achievable in a state with a population that's not quite 626,000 (2010 Census), and builds program buy-in among participants--who in the case of the AT School Swap are school personnel in a position to network with one another. Alderman, however, has also become a point person for reused AT among state agencies, the medical community (including skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers), private non profits, and most recently the Vermont FEMA disability coordinator (post Tropical Storm Irene). And she is able to directly assist individual consumers; the getATstuff site allows administrators to see visitors and what listings they view, which means she may contact them to offer help.
VT AT Program staff accept Governor's Award
Indeed with the research assistance of Alderman and her interns, Vermont schools, individuals and families, nursing facilities, non profits and others have received devices through in-state as well as interstate initiatives. Reuse programs as far away as Kansas and Georgia have provided equipment to Vermonters with specific needs.
VT AT Reuse Project Nuts and Bolts:
- 1 full-time project coordinator initially funded through a Medicaid infrastructure grant.
- 2 part-time skilled interns majoring in marketing and mechanical/bio medical engineering at area colleges. Alderman's interns have created marketing materials and press releases as well as data tracking systems.
- $1,447,707 have been saved by consumers (over the cost of new equipment) since the VT AT Reuse Project's inception in FY2008.
- VT AT Reuse Project is an initiative of the VT Assistive Technology Program which is part of the Dept. of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living and the VT Family Network (a private non profit).
- GetATStuff.com was developed and is maintained by a consortium of the six New England states.
- The AT School Swap platform is maintained by 3 states of this consortium: VT, CT, and MA (site improvements are ongoing),
- ReSTORE in Barre, a division of ReSource in VT, has initiated an AT-DME area with the support and technical assistance of the AT Reuse Project (and an initial donation of medical equipment from New England Medical to the VT AT Program).
- Yankee Medical and other DME vendors are providing additional supports to the project.
Download the Vermont AT School Swap Power Point. This is a very detailed overview of VT's AT School Swap which Alderman presented last January at ATIA 2011 Orlando.
Attend "Optimizing AT Resources in Schools: School Swap and More" on Saturday, Jan. 28th at ATIA 2012 Orlando presented by Sharon Alderman with Liz Persaud and Carolyn Phillips of the Pass It On Center.
project coordinator, VT AT Reuse Project
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