By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
Emmaus Homes has been serving adults with developmental disabilities for 123 years, but that doesn’t mean it takes an old-fashioned approach to their care. Once known as a provider with large residential facilities, the organization now emphasizes community-based housing that helps clients meet their goals for living a full life.
The change reflects best practices and changes in Medicaid standards, which will require community-based facilities for all clients by March 2019, said Cindy Clark, president and chief executive of Emmaus Homes.
Emmaus phased out a large facility in St. Charles recently and is in the process of phasing out its 650-acre property in Marthasville, Mo.
Emmaus was started in Marthasville by the German Evangelical Church, the present-day United Church of Christ. Although it has a historic affiliation with the denomination, it receives no formal funding except for donations from church members and local congregations.
Most individuals who come to Emmaus for services are referred by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, and all but a handful receive services funded by Medicaid. Funds from Medicaid account for $28 million of Emmaus’s $30 million annual budget, which covers salaries for 650 employees, most of them direct client support staff.
Emmaus must raise the $2 million Medicaid doesn’t cover through United Way funding, individual donations and three annual community events.
Emmaus serves approximately 280 individuals in more than 70 small group homes in St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Warren counties. Emmaus clients range in age from 18 to 98, and Emmaus serves some who have been with Emmaus for more than 50 years.
“Our services begin where a client’s skills begin to taper off,” said Clark. Emmaus works with each client to develop a plan based on their own definition of what they want for their lives – developing a hobby, keeping a job, volunteering or simply getting out into the community more. The agency then matches that client’s needs and plans with similar individuals who will share a home where they have round-the-clock care.
Clark says most clients come to Emmaus for three reasons: loss of a caregiver, a severe behavioral need or a medical need. Many require full-time care including lifting, bathing and other services that their families can’t provide. Many families can’t afford such services without help from Medicaid, and as family caregivers age, many can no longer care for their family members with disabilities.
To receive services, a client needs to be diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability before the age of 21. They have to demonstrate a need for care and qualify for Medicaid.
“There’s a very high bar to demonstrate that you’re in need of residential placement,” Clark said.
Like other care-giving organizations, Emmaus faces a shortage of qualified people who are interested in becoming direct support professionals. Clark said pay isn’t what they’d like it to be, and industry turnover is high. Emmaus looks for people who aspire to its core values: customer-centered service, integrity, initiative and collaboration. It provides bonuses for those who do extraordinary work.
Emmaus provides training to new employees and annual refresher courses. Leadership team members meet regularly with staff to hear about their experiences and provide feedback. Twice a year, the management team holds a “town hall” meeting to update staff on strategies and celebrate successes.
Recently, Emmaus rolled out a social media app that allows employees to recognize their peers and share that recognition with everyone in the organization. It helps employees feel connected to Emmaus even when they’re dispersed over four counties.
Clark says the app helps her keep up with some of the outstanding work employees have done and reach out to thank them. Recently, she learned about a staff member who went to the hospital to sit with a dying client even though she had suffered a loss in her own family. Clark said she might not have known about the employee’s extraordinary actions without the app.
Clark realizes the clients have a choice of providers. Missouri has 800 providers of care for individuals with disabilities, including small proprietors and large organizations. But she said Emmaus Homes stands out because of its historic church ties.
“Our faith-based tradition and our core values really distinguish Emmaus as a provider of choice,” Clark said. “We continue to invest in that.” Emmaus has a vice president of spiritual care, and it provides a regular worship service at Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in St. Charles as well as the historic chapel on the Marthasville campus. Emmaus also has a three year accreditation – the highest – from CARF, a national accreditation organization for health and human services organizations.
Emmaus Homes, 3731 Mueller Road, St. Charles, Mo. 63301
President and CEO: Cindy Clark
Mission Statement: Arising from faith in Jesus Christ, the mission of Emmaus Homes is to enhance the quality of life for people of all beliefs with cognitive, intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
BBB prepares profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities as part of its TORCH Awards process. Emmaus Homes is a winner of the BBB St. Louis TORCH Awards.