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NPI Turns 50 This Year

This year Nishna Productions, Inc. (NPI) is celebrating 50 years of service to adult men and women with disabilities in southwest Iowa. Nishna Productions, Inc. was founded in 1974 by a group of parents who were wanting something for their adult children to do after they completed their special education program at Yorktown Special School in Yorktown, Iowa. The first services were offered out of the Clarinda Mental Health Complex to seven individuals with disabilities.

Since then, there has been a myriad of changes in funding, locations, and services offered.

In 1978, the construction of a new work center began in Shenandoah. It was completed in 1979. While this portion of the agency’s growth was taking place, a satellite work center was established in Glenwood and later moved to Malvern. In addition to the opportunity to work in the work center, classes were also offered to provide extra training and support in the areas of adult basic education, social skills, meal preparation, and personal hygiene.

In the eighties, NPI opened three 8-bed group homes – one each in Red Oak, Shenandoah and Malvern. These homes were modified into 10-bed group homes in 1986. NPI began two other key services in the eighties. The first was an hourly service to support individuals with disabilities who did not require services on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis. These individuals could live in a less restrictive environment and only receive the services they needed to live semi-independently in the community of their choice. Support services provided included meal planning, grocery shopping, budgeting, leisure activities, household management, and assistance with medical appointments.

The second service started in the eighties was a supported employment program. This program was designed for NPI staff to help people with disabilities find community jobs and support them in those jobs through training and job coaching.

Both hourly services and community employment supports are services still provided to this day.

In the 90’s NPI purchased – and two years later expanded – the Shenandoah Work Center at 902 Day St. Two years after that, the old Jefferson School was purchased in Red Oak and renovated to a work center. These two work centers provided opportunities for people with disabilities to gain useful work performance skills while earning a wage.

The 90s also brought changes in certain rules and regulations for residential services, introducing waiver homes where residents could receive services in “regular” houses in the community. NPI also developed an adult day service program for those people who no longer wanted to work at the Work Centers, or they were not benefiting from involvement in a work program. This is another program that continues today.

The years between 2001 and 2010 did not seem to have any significant changes in the way services were delivered or how services were funded. Much of the time was spent expanding residential services through the addition of homes in southwest Iowa, including Page, Fremont, Mills and Montgomery counties.

In 2011, construction began on a 16,000 square foot redemption center, commercial laundry and vocational training center. This facility opened in Red Oak in 2012. The next several years saw changes in rules and legislation that regulated how services were to be delivered and funded. Services became more person centered, and funding moved to managed care organizations.

Through the 2000-teens, NPI continued to grow, opening new residential sites throughout the four counties served. NPI continued to support individuals with disabilities and improve their quality of life.

2020. COVID. Everyone was impacted by the changes that happened that year, and Nishna was no exception. The Governor shut down most of the services outside of residential from March 18 to June 22. NPI had their fair share of positive COVID cases among both staff and residents, resulting in quarantines and the use of isolation settings. One of the biggest challenges for the agency initially was the acquisition of PPE for staff. The agency was informed that NPI staff was not considered essential health care workers, so PPE was not immediately available. NPI continue to push for national recognition of Direct Support Staff as essential health care workers.

The major result of the COVID pandemic for Nishna has been a severe workforce shortage. Prior to COVID, the agency’s turnover rate for all positions ranged from 8-11%. During COVID, it increased to 20% and NPI still hasn’t fully recovered.

In 2022, the closure of Glenwood Resource Center was announced. Nishna has been working tirelessly with GRC to transition many of their residents to NPI homes. This has not been without its own challenges. The availability of affordable, accessible homes in SW Iowa is at a premium. And NPI still needs to be able to hire staff for those sites. With funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and through partnering with the Iowa Finance Authority, NPI has been able to address some of their needs.

In an effort to facilitate the transition of residents from GRC, NPI is completing construction on three affordable, accessible homes – one each in Malvern, Red Oak, and Shenandoah. Each ranch-style home will have 4-bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Residents will begin moving into the home in Malvern in early February. By the end of March, the homes in Shenandoah and Red Oak will be ready for residents.

Any agency that has been around for 50 years has had to face (and overcome) challenges and make a few changes. Through it all, NPI has remained focused on impacting and changing lives for the better. NPI is truly “Builders of Lives.”

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