The Jackson County Commission recently chose the company that will guide the local government’s effort to establish a center that will primarily serve autistic individuals that are aging out of the school system to embark on their futures as independent adults.
Housing and job training opportunities, as well as guidance in the fine-tuning of social and workforce skills, will be at the heart of the program as currently envisioned.
First Place will act as a consultant and, potentially, a partner in the process.
The county has not yet defined exactly what it will want from the company, which has a track record of, and has gained awards for, wide-spanning autism support programs that include residential, educational and other components. A cornerstone facility is First Place-Phoenix, but through its Leadership Institute Consulting Services component has guided other entities through autism support initiatives as well, with many options for clients to choose as far as the scope of the company’s involvement.
The county wants to create an autism transitional center at Endeavor, the former home of the Dozier School for Boys off Penn Avenue in Marianna. It plans to use an existing building there as the centerpiece of the educational aspect of the autism center.
Potential residential components may also be part of the plan, and might include a mix of dwellings for autism center participants interspersed with senior neighbors or other select populations in a neighborhood environment designed to provide real-world conditions for the transitioning individuals.
Nothing is set in stone at this point as far as the county’s ultimate plan or how far it will go in using all that First Place group has to offer in the developing program.
First Place, in its submission as a candidate to serve the county, indicated potential timelines for the project, as if it were to be involved from start to finish, forecasting that a center up and running roughly six months from its starting work on a plan.
It would focus on “discovery sessions and strategic planning” over a roughly two-month period, begin work on architecture and design issues as that process continued, and develop an organizational structure as architecture and design elements continue.
It suggested the next step would be to embark on recruitment and training as well as marketing efforts, in the third month of work, with marketing continuing through the continuation of the project.
Also in the third month of involvement, the county indicates it could begin planning for operation infrastructure and, sometime in the fifth month of work, wrap up final touches, and in the sixth month hold a grand opening. Inaugural classes could start within a month of that.