Business network helps people with disabilities

Prime Horizon in Port launches initiative that enlists companies in effort to get clients out and about in the community

CLIENTS OF PRIME HORIZON attended a workout session at Adapt and Conquer Fitness in Grafton on Monday with the facility’s Program Director Jason Olejniczak (from left) and Prime Horizon’s Lead Coordinator Kimberly Borgenhagen. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Prime Horizon, a disability services agency in Port Washington, is working with area businesses to help its clients get involved in the community.

“It’s businesses helping businesses. It’s been astonishing the response,” Co-Director Shawn Miles said. “We call it our Prime Network. It’s really in its infancy right now and we are looking to expand on it.”

The program began a year ago when Miles and his wife Melanie Clausing-Miles, who is a co-director of the organization, wanted to broaden their services with innovative activities and discounts for their clients.

“Health care is very expensive. This initiative is way they can lower their monthly costs,” Clausing-Miles said. “In order to reduce the amount of home care expenses, we reached out to vendors we have became associated with over the years in Ozaukee County. It’s a way for these business owners to offer discounts to our clients and lower their cost of care.”

The businesses involved with the network include Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly, Ye Olde Pharmacy Wellness Center and YogaOne Studio in Cedarburg, Pretty Paws Pet Grooming in Saukville, Centre Court Hair Design, Jimmy B’s Auto and By Your Side Conuslutation in Port Washington, and Adapt and Conquer Fitness and Housman and Feind Law Office in Grafton. 

“It’s amazing the conversations we’re having with these business owners who recognize the cost of care for our clients and it’s a way for us to give back to our local businesses,” Miles said, noting the organization is seeking more companies to join its network.

At Adapt and Conquer Fitness, clients meet at the center in Grafton every other week to improve their coordination for daily tasks like standing up from a chair and picking up an item from the floor and placing it on a shelf. Program Director Jason Olejniczak said he adapts his lessons to accommodate the individual's needs. 

“All of these clients want to be treated like anyone else. It’s just a matter of getting them a little bit uncomfortable because a lot of times people cater to their disability and they don’t get the chance to push themselves or get them out of their comfort zone,” Olejniczak said. “Everybody can do anything. It’s just a matter of modifying their workout properly and ensure the adaptations fit their specific disability or impairment.”

Clausing-Miles said some of the clients have stress-related issues and use YogaOne Studio in Cedarburg to help manage their mental health.   

“We were looking for ways to intervene instead of running to the side of medication,” she said. “The ones who participate look forward to it every week and some of our people didn’t know what yoga was until they tried it.”

In addition to physical activities, the program provides discounted rates for other services, such as haircuts, auto work and legal advice for estate planning, wills and power of attorney.

“The majority of our home care clients are living on fixed incomes,” Miles said. “A lot of the families we are supporting are struggling and barely making it.”

The couple first thought of the idea to integrate their clients within the business community when they began working with the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office several years ago to teach deputies how to manage people with mental and physical disabilities, which is part of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team Training.

“There’s always a break in understanding between law enforcement and people with special needs or mental health issues. Ozaukee County was trying to bridge that gap,” Clausing-Miles said. “We have some clients who are afraid when they see police. They figured out police officers are people too.”

Last week, deputies carved pumpkins at a group home in Belgium that is managed by Prime Horizon’s sister company, Individual Growth Services. Miles said the deputies frequent the facility for training by spending time with clients.

Miles said the organization’s No. 1 goal is to help reduce the stigma for individuals with disabilities. 

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance,” he said. “A lot of the companies we reached out to don’t have a lot of experience working with people who have disabilities and it has just become natural for them. It’s another example of great community integration”

Clausing-Miles agreed.

“There’s always a stigma with health care and individuals with disabilities,” she said. “We’re all just people and being able to get out in the community helps everybody feel the same.” 

Prime Horizon was formed 10 years ago with two clients who had trouble fitting in at other agencies. 

“They didn’t really fit the mold for other programs in the county so we started to do our own program,” Miles said. “We want our services to wrap around the person. Not the person needing to wrap around our services.”

Today, the organization has more than 150 people involved in its programs for home care, day service and supportive housing. Clients range in age from 8 to 85 and all are residents of Ozaukee County.

“We don’t just support adults with disabilities. We support a wide range of individuals, like the elderly, individuals with developmental disabilities and people who have have spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries,” Clausing-Miles said. “There are some challenges with running a business like this, but in the end we’re one big family.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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