• Saratoga Business Report
Thursday, 14 July 2022 16:21

Supporting Everyday Heroes Featured

Written by Saratoga Bridges
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — On the evening of July 16, 500 people dressed in white (with a splash of color) will stroll the grounds of Saratoga National Golf Club, feast on offerings from Mazzone Catering, sip complimentary beverages, rock to the beat of Cryin’ Out Loud and applaud fireworks by Santore’s World Famous Fireworks. While enjoying themselves at  Saratoga’s “party of the summer” they are supporting Saratoga Bridges, a chapter of  The ARC of New York.

Saratoga Bridges provides services to over 830 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, from early identification throughout their lives. When a loved one needs special support that reality can be overwhelming. It is difficult to know how and where to begin. Saratoga Bridges provides guidance on services available and how to gain access. Case workers take an organized approach to identify needs and determine how and where those can be met.

While case workers are a lifeline for family members, Direct Service Providers (DSP’s) are the lifeline for individuals. “It is said it takes a special person to work with individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Pamela Polacsek, Assistant Director of Communications for Saratoga Bridges. “That is more true now than ever. People can earn a living with fewer challenges, yet for the individuals they serve, DSP’s play a critical role.”

Tyler, age 30, is a “typical” individual who receives services through Saratoga Bridges. As he approaches the Wilton Day Program he points to the building with an excited gasp because he knows he will soon see Audrey DellaRatta, Chrissy Barss and Thomas Dreyer. Often, Tyler’s first smile of the day is when one of them greets him at the door. They will read books, play games in the activity room, help him enjoy his favorite videos and work on life goals. Tyler lives with his family and Bridges provides home aids who give his parents a break while providing care and social interaction for Tyler. For many individuals these DSP’s provide an opportunity for experiences that many take for granted like riding a train, attending a baseball game or even visiting the grave of a loved one.

“There are so many reasons I love my career as a DSP,” said Audrey DellaRatta, recently recognized for excellence by Bridges. “My favorite part is getting to know the kind, funny, smart and creative people I get to support. Encouraging and assisting individuals in reaching their personal goals and potentials is extremely rewarding. In return, I have experienced great joy and gained purpose in my own life.”

Saratoga Bridges operating budget is $22.9 million. While Medicaid and New York State cover 97% the remaining 1% must be generated through grants and fundraising. “That 1% is what we have to recruit, retain and offer incentives to our people,” Polacsek said “People want to live in Saratoga, but the cost makes that difficult. With the cost of gas you don’t want to commute very far, either. Turnover is particularly difficult on our individuals. There is a lack of parity in the wages and benefits Bridges can offer compared to state agencies. Our desire is to close that gap, but reimbursement for essential services often doesn’t equal the cost. We went 10 years without a cost of living increase. This is where we count on the community. So Bridges can support the people who support the individuals we serve.”

To learn more about Saratoga Bridges and their programs visit their website at www.saratogabridges.org.

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