New Options: 50-year program has much to offer, room to grow with ProAct

Stability, activity, service and staying power have helped define New Options in Shakopee, a Scott County Day Training and Habilitation provider that joined with ProAct in January.

“I am excited to help lead the transition,” said Director Ali Brown. “I hope that the growth will enhance our program and make it even better.”

Housed in a single level building with other social service agencies just across a field from Canterbury Park, New Options kept its name, and almost all of its staff as it came under ProAct New Options signagemanagement. Scott County worked for two years to consider options for the 50-year-old program, which had been the last county run operation of its kind in Minnesota.

A staff of 21 employees serves 85 individuals at New Options, and there is a waiting list for more clients to come on board. It is licensed to serve up to 104 people. The service has operated from the same location at 792 Canterbury Road since 1999, when it combined two facilities into one, Brown explained.

With a separate work floor for production, soft skills training rooms, therapy and exercise opportunities, more than 20 New Options participants rely on wheelchairs. A number of those served have high level medical needs, and a contracted nurse is on site three days a week, said Brown.

ProAct plans to add competitive employment options to the New Options mix of services in the coming months. For some in-center jobs, it works with a high-end bicycle parts company, sorts and shreds paperwork for Scott County and prepares and packages products for the Nott Company, a custom rubber fabricator in the north metro.

The Shakopee-based provider also operates work enclaves. Most involve cleaning. About a third of the individuals served work at churches, the area historical society and at the Renaissance Festival toward the end of summer. Individuals with disabilities cut bread bowls for soup, make sandwiches and clean laundry for the Shakopee attraction.

Back on site, a greenhouse outside offers opportunities to grow and sell vegetables and flowers, says Brown. Families, friends and Scott County staff also donate plants for sale and the funds received help provide more activity options for the people served. For the Valentine’s Day holiday, New Options individuals sell hundreds of balloons donated by Anagram.

Community interactions are steady and plentiful, from visits to area parts, to swimming, zoo tours, coffee club meetings, museums, theaters, community centers and career fair involvement, according to Brown. And, there are regular food outings and birthday clubs.

Transportation is contracted out at the Shakopee facility, except for two vans operated by New Options. Individuals come in from Shakopee, as well as Chaska and distant Director Ali Brown and Doug Svoboda, who has been with new options for more than 20 years.county and neighboring county communities, such as New Prague, Belle Plaine and Montgomery.

New Options has been incorporating person-centered training principles into its operation for the last two years, Brown said. All of its designated coordinators took classes on the subject.

Families have been pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the transition to ProAct, Brown said. “Most of the long term staff has stayed and no services have been interrupted.”