Group Home Offers More Options For Parents

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When meeting the needs of children and young adults with developmental disabilities (DDD) becomes more than parents can handle, a group home often becomes an option.

Payson's newest group home is Hidalgo House, operated by Community Provider of Enrichment Services (CPES). It opened in August.

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"I love horses," said Hidalgo House resident Sam Feat, excitedly showing his new book on horses to Brad Waters.

"CPES's main goal is to be a valuable asset to the community and provide services to individuals in Payson" said Hidalgo House Supervisor Brad Waters.

"(DDD clients) understand what you are communicating to them, but at times they might not be able to communicate back to you, how they feel or their needs. Some of them can have mild retardation, yet are still great communicators and they are productive."

When those with DDD lack safety skills, they need to be monitored around the clock so they do not accidentally hurt themselves or others.

"Sometimes that includes them AWOLing -- the urge to just get out and run," Waters said.

Outside doors have several locks to prevent this, but clients are not stuck indoors.

They go on walks and field trips with staff members.

Resident Sam Feat loves horses. According to Waters, many field trips have been to interact with horses and other animals.

"Animals and people of special means have a subtle bond," Waters said. "Animals are not judgmental and they seem to connect with people with special needs."

"Sam is really a good youngster," said Bob Gerhard, the Hidalgo staff member responsible for his care a third of the week. "We went through our testing (of boundaries) period. It is incredible the progress he has made. I always have to remember that although Sam's behavior isn't yours or mine, there might be a reason for it. I always try to treat him the way I want to be treated."

Feat is a polite young man, shaking hands and offering a greeting of "Hello" with a big grin. Then he showed off his latest book on horses. His eyes lit up when asked if he had ever ridden on a horse. "Oh yes!" he said.

Feat has a private room, decorated with a horse rug.

Hidalgo House can have up to three clients and each will have their own room for space and privacy said Waters.

"I've been in this field for 15 years," Waters said, "You have to have a passion for it; you have to like helping others. It's rewarding at the same to finish your day feeling like you helped somebody else."

Waters was a surgical technician before going back to Arizona State University for a psychology degree.

He took sign language as his foreign language requirement

Waters said his most rewarding experience continues to be "seeing clients be able to communicate in sign language where otherwise they wouldn't be able to communicate at all."

Most clients who can't communicate are not deaf; they just don't have the skills to communicate verbally other than grunting and pointing as a toddler might, Waters said.

The fluid hand gestures of sign language can represent a whole sentence.

"I found that working with behavioral health clients, when they had a chance to learn new coping skills that would improve the quality of their life, it kind of blew me away, to be honest," Waters said.

CPES operates approximately 40 residential group homes across Arizona. The employee-owned company does not place clients in homes randomly; they attempt to match personalities and behaviors.

CPES can also provide support through in-home services and eventually wants to offer day services in Payson.

There is room for two more people at Hidalgo House. Contact Waters at (928) 978-3051 for more information.

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