By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — “Jamie” (name changed to protect her identity) has had a difficult life. A victim of sexual abuse raised by a parent with a drug addiction, life’s answer for her was often the four walls of an institution or group home.
Like many others with developmental disabilities, Jamie is bright and capable. With a brilliant smile that lights up the room, Jamie gives little sign of the torment she has been through in her life. Why? Because the life she leads now overshadows the path that has brought her there.
Jamie looks back to the regimented life of institutions and group homes beside multiple residents and cherishes where she is now.
“I have my own place without any other clients,” Jamie said. “I get to go shopping and stuff for other houses, and I get to clean the (Ripple Behavior Solutions) office.”
Residing in her own home, Jamie has 16 hours of one-on-one care and is allowed eight hours of alone time each day. In addition, Jamie administers her own medications.
“She is very independent compared to when she got here three years ago,” said Jill Ellis, Ripple Behavior Solutions regional office manager.
“(She) cooks on her own, cleans her own house, passes her own meds, does her own menu,” said Ripple staff member Lorri Esper-Rodriguez.
“(She) makes her own activity calendar and takes care of her own money,” Ellis added.
Jamie cooks and bakes and shares her creations with other Ripple clients and staff.
“When she bakes something or makes homemade pizza, she’ll share it with the other side of the duplex or take it to the girls at the office,” Esper-Rodriguez explained. “She’s made a lot of progress, … learning how to do more things for herself and learning how to be more independent.”
Ripple Behavior Solutions strives to manage clients’ behaviors so they may live in their own home and participate in the community.
“We provide community living for individuals who have not been able to successfully live in the community,” Ellis explained. “All of our clients have come out of an institution or some type of group home setting where they weren’t able to be successful. … We help them to succeed to have a normal life or as normal as it possibly can be.”
Ripple had a presence in Elkhorn before coming to Marshfield.
“Our first client was in Elkhorn, and his family was all (in the Marshfield area),” Ellis said. “They wanted him closer to family, so they came here with him, and it was just him for a while. … Our company started to grow in 2014. … We brought in more clients.”
Most of the program’s facilities consist of duplexes set up for individual clients. Clients may have their own pets, and their accommodations are tailored to their likes and needs.
Clients are referred to Ripple through community care facilities, case workers, parents, and other resources.
“We take challenging people that don’t fit in to the normal mold of standard group home,” said Ripple owner Jeff Heistad-Johnson. “We take the outliers, the ones that don’t fit into other programs because their needs are too high.”