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Archive for Sunday, November 22, 1998

STARFIRE HELPS AGENCY HELP DISABLED CLIENTS

November 22, 1998

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A Lawrence-based company is helping Community Living Opportunities develop a way to collect data that ultimately will help improve clients' quality of life, staffers say.

A software application designed by a Lawrence company is helping Community Living Opportunities improve the lives of people with mental, emotional and physical disabilities, the agency's chief executive officer says.

And the new application could find uses in mainstream business, as well.

Starfire Engineering and Technologies helped CLO devise a Lotus Notes-based software solution that has shaved considerable time off entering data about clients' behaviors.

Before creating the customized application that CLO calls the "Individualized Quality of Life Indicator," consultants for the agency collected information about clients' behaviors on hand-generated cards. Making changes was a laborious task.

On top of that, consultants tracked data in different ways, making it difficult to study behaviors in a uniform fashion.

Now updating a data card takes only a few minutes, at most, and the information is standardized so it can be easily understood by the various staff members who work with clients with Down syndrome, autism, profound and severe mental retardation, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

The new technology is a breakthrough in treatment, according to Mike Strouse, chief executive officer at CLO. If the consultants at CLO can pinpoint when and under what circumstances a client exhibits a maladaptive behavior such as banging his head against a wall, they have a much better chance of working around the problem, he said.

"Let's say `Fred's' problem only occurs from 9 a.m. to noon or only when he's on the bus," Strouse said. "We can make some changes and see, keeping taking data and then see if Fred starts behaving better. The goal is to develop data collection systems to see if someone is improving."

CLO and Starfire have been working on the software for about three years. Mary Spurlock, director of applications services at Starfire, and Audra K. Spurlock-Read, Notes specialist, said the solution has broad-reaching implications.

"Any place where you want to track human performance and analyze it in a simple way, this application would be of great help," Strouse said. "It would be just as appropriate for a business."

Developing the software application cost about $100,000, financed initially by the J.F. Mayer Foundation in Colorado. CLO now owns the application and eventually plans to make it available to other organizations and businesses for a fee.

Starfire, a family-run business, was a logical choice as a partner, Strouse said, because the company had worked with CLO before. Getting started on the project was interesting because CLO didn't really know at first what it was looking for, said Jamie Price, co-director of consulting and evaluation at CLO.

Mary Spurlock said it's called "process innovation" in her industry.

"It was something that had never been done," she said.

Spurlock-Read, who developed the application, said it was extremely rewarding working with CLO.

"It was an incredible project on both sides," Mary Spurlock said.

Price agrees.

"Our research capabilities opened up tenfold because of this," Price said.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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