History Note: Fifty years of innovation reflected in Accord’s history

The disability service provider Accord celebrates 50 years’ operations in 2021. Here’s a look back at some past accomplishments.

In 1967, members and leaders of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church saw a need to serve families whose loved ones lived with disabilities. The need was apparent as the number of people served by a church program more than tripled, from seven in the first year to 25 the following year. The program grew to become Community Involvement Programs or CIP, which was founded May 28, 2021.

CIP had a long history of innovative and first-of-their-kind programs, addressing needs at a time when many people with disabilities were transitioning out of institutions. One program was an apartment training program, to help people live in their own homes.

A downtown day activity center opened its doors in 1972.

From the early years, a big CIP focus was housing, with an array of housing options opening their doors in locales from Minneapolis to Pine County. Group homes, mental health adult foster homes, semi-independent living situations or SILS, and the opening of the first home in Hinckley under the Home and Community-Based Services waiver were among the many accomplishments.

In the 1990s CIP worked with nonprofit housing providers and Hennepin County suburbs through a shared housing program, to renovate vacant and foreclosed upon homes for use as supportive homes for persons living with mental illness. In newspaper articles, then-CIP Director Tim Burkett said the program was launched to break the cycle of people leaving hospital settings for group homes, moving to independent living and then going back into hospitals or institutions because they couldn’t live completely on their own.

CIP also played a lead role in creation of the Minnesota Supportive Housing Consortium while continuing to provide an array of new services.

CIP went far beyond typical case management and housing placement and supervision. One 1980s Star Tribune article described how CIP clients were learning to defend themselves, through physical tactics and assertiveness training led by the Midwest Karate Association. The training took place after some clients were crime victims.

In 2015, under new leadership with CEO Rita Wiersma, CIP joined Altair Accountable Care Organization as a provider focusing on how health care is integrated with social services for people with disabilities. In response to health care and social services often occurring in isolation, a new vision is emerging. Established in 2013, Altair Accountable Care Organization (ACO) is the first social service-initiated ACO in Minnesota, and believed to also be the first in the nation. It embraces a vision of a system that coordinates, evaluates, and plans financing for a wide range of services that impact health.

The ALLY People Solutions-CIP merger in 2019 allowed further expansion in day support services and employment services.

The ever changing landscape of Minnesota social services, coupled with the merger, called for a new name. The name Accord was chosen in 2020. It was one of many changes as services locations and offices consolidated into a new St. Paul headquarters, on Energy Park Drive.

Now Accord is poised for its next 50 years of helping people with an array of disabilities to live their greatest lives.

The History Note is a monthly column produced in cooperation with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Past History Notes and other disability history may be found at  www.mnddc.org