Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Independence Northwest?
Independence Northwest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides services to about 500 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Portland tri-county area. We serve Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties and have been in operation as a brokerage since 2007. Our agency is governed by a board of directors primarily comprised of people with I/DD and/or their family members. Our funding comes through a contract with the State of Oregon Department of Human Services.

What is a Brokerage?
Brokerages are private agencies (usually nonprofit) that contract with the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide case management, resources, and access to in-home support services. We offer self-directed, person-centered services. Brokerages serve about 8,000 people statewide.

Why are you called a Brokerage?
Great question. Brokerages are not providers in the traditional sense of the word. Usually when you think of a provider, you think of someone who will be doing direct, hands-on support. Brokerages are connectors. We’re navigators, brokers. Think of us as a link between your goals and the resources you need to carry out those goals.

Where do Brokerages come from?
Brokerages are the result of a lawsuit several families brought against the State of Oregon at the end of the 1990s. Over 5,000 people had been on waitlists for community-based services for many, many years. The lawsuit (Staley v. Kitzhaber) resulted in the Staley Agreement, paving the way for the brokerage services. Strong self-advocate, family, and community leaders demanded a new way of providing case management and services in the community.

What is a Personal Agent?
It’s a funny name, we know. When brokerages were created back in 2001, the idea was to stop having people feel like “cases” who were “managed” by a “case manager”. No one wants to be a case and no one wants to be managed. So, the families, self-advocates, and community leaders who built brokerages came up with the term Personal Agent.

A Personal Agent’s job is to connect you with resources in the community (paid and unpaid) to help you live a full life. The funding comes from a case management funding source – state and federal government. We’ll use the term case manager sometimes because it’s the word most commonly used to create a distinction of support out in the world. So, we’re your PA, we’re your Case Manager, we’re your Service Coordinator. Whatever term you prefer, let’s go with it. What matters is what we do. And what we do is connect you to the people and services you need to live the life you want to live.

 

How often will I see my Personal Agent?
When you’re new to services you’ll see us quite a bit. We have initial paperwork to go over, an assessment to move through, payment paperwork for current or future providers, and eventually we’ll develop a plan with you. At minimum, we will meet with you annually face to face. That’s required for you to remain in services. At least quarterly (every three months) we will check in with you – and for some customers, we will check in monthly. You and your PA will discuss what schedule makes the most sense for you.

What hours does my Personal Agent work?
Independence Northwest is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and closed most major holidays. Personal Agents are generally available during those business hours. You can reach them by email, text, or phone. If you are unable to reach your PA during business hours and require immediate assistance, please call our main line at 503.546.2950 and we’ll have someone help you in their absence. If you have an emergency, be sure to call 911 first.

When I leave a message, how long should I expect to hear back from my Personal Agent or other INW staff?
If you leave a voicemail or send an email, a return call or email should be expected within two business days. Most of the time, you will hear back sooner than that – sometimes the same day you message us. Even if the answer is “I don’t know, let me check on that,” you deserve a quick response.

Who do I contact when my PA is on vacation?
When our staff are on vacation or out for any extended period of time, we’ll be sure to update our outgoing voicemails and our email out-of-office replies to let you know who is covering. If you experience an issue with someone not responding or you need something immediately, please call our main line at 503.546.2950 and we’ll have someone assist you in your PA’s absence.

Will I still have a County Case Manager?
No. Your Personal Agent becomes your case management support when you transfer to brokerage services. You have the right to receive case management from either the county or the brokerage, so if you’d prefer county services instead, just let us know.

What is Self Determination?
Self Determination is a philosophy and process by which people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are empowered to gain control over the selection of support services that meet their needs. We believe that freedom, authority, autonomy, and responsibility are the key to living a full life – for everyone, regardless of disability. You should have the freedom to plan a life with the supports you need. You should have the authority to control your service resources. You should have the support you need to be involved in the community. And you should have the responsibility to oversee your services and appropriately use public funds. We’re here to support you each step of the way.

What is an Adult Needs Assessment?
The ANA (Adult Needs Assessment) is a tool designed by the State of Oregon to record a person’s disability-related support needs. We’re required to perform an ANA with all new customers prior to writing the first plan and authorizing paid supports. The assessment asks a series of questions about your needs and determines the number of paid supports a person might be eligible for. This assessment is done at least annually, but a re-assessment can be conducted any time, just ask. By rule, a brokerage has 45 days to perform a re-assessment upon request, but we will likely be able to do so much more swiftly in most cases. If you’d like to see a copy of the assessment Oregon uses, click here.

Do I have to use all the hours the assessment offers?
Not at all. In fact, many people don’t. The assessment theoretically assesses all of your needs – met and unmet. Often, people already have their needs met by other people in their lives and don’t require additional supports. The idea is to use additional resources when you need them, expanding your life and increasing your independence.

What is an ISP?
ISP stands for Individual Support Plan. We’ll probably refer to it as “your plan” most of the time. Once we know your goals and we identify the resources you’ll need to reach those goals, we’ll write a plan together. Your planning meeting can be as simple as just you and your PA – or it can be a roomful of people who are important to you. It’s really up to you.  Oregon uses a universal ISP document and you can check it out here.

What if I want to make changes to my plan?
Easy. Folks do it all the time. Just call your PA and they’ll help you update your plan to reflect the changes you want and need.

What kinds of providers are available to me?
You can work with many kinds of providers including Personal Support Workers, Independent Contractors (for certain professional services), and Provider Organizations. We’ll connect you to providers in a variety of ways. We can introduce you directly to providers and help you interview them and we will take you on tours of agencies you’re interested in. Talk to your PA. She/he knows about tons of resources and is great at making connections! Learn more about providers here.

What if I want to change providers?
No problem. Brokerages are based on choice. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. When you want to make a change, give your PA a call. We’ll help you with the changes you’d like to make.

How does my PA know what can/can’t be paid for through my plan?
Brokerages are funded through a mix of state and federal funding. Depending on the service you’re receiving, the funding comes from either the Title XIX Waiver or the Community First Choice Option/K Plan (part of the Affordable Care Act.) If you’d like to learn more about these programs, check out the services page on our website by clicking here. There, you’ll find links to the governing documents we follow to help people get the services they need.

What do I do if I’m not happy with my Personal Agent?
If things aren’t working out for some reason, we encourage you to talk to your PA about the issue. If that doesn’t work or if you aren’t comfortable with this, you can always call either our Senior Program Supervisor Jessica Kral or our Executive Director Larry Deal. Choice is number one for us. We want you to have the right match. After all, this is a person playing a key role in helping you live the life you want to live. The right fit matters.

Can I choose to work with another brokerage?
Absolutely. You can choose any brokerage with capacity in the tri-county region. Check out the Rights and Responsibilities document in this packet for more details. You may also view links to brokerages statewide on our website by clicking here or at the My Brokerage My Choice website.

How can I learn more about Brokerages?
At least monthly, INW offers a Brokerage 101 presentation to the community. It’s an in-depth 90 minute presentation provided by INW’s Executive Director Larry Deal and a great opportunity to learn more, connect with other families and advocates, and get your questions answered. Click here to find out when the next Brokerage 101 is scheduled. You can join our mailing list by clicking here and please consider following us on Facebook.

Who can I talk to if I have more questions?
You can always call your Personal Agent, our Senior Program Supervisor Jessica Kral, or our Executive Director Larry Deal. Reach us by calling 503.546.2950.

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