Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Commissioner's Message - February 28, 2012


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On January 26, I announced OPWDD’s new choking prevention initiative. This initiative will standardize - statewide - our system’s approach to food consistencies and preparation. It will also heighten awareness of choking hazards and safety concerns.

Our team has developed a training curriculum and complementary resources to accompany this initiative into the field. Over the next several months, we will begin distributing materials which will ensure that everyone who prepares food for an individual receiving state or nonprofit services has the information and materials they need to do so safely.

The success of this initiative requires consistent terminology and definitions. Following a comprehensive review of state and nonprofit practices, as well as the practices of other states, we learned that what one location considers chopped, another may consider ground. Not only were similar standards inconsistent, but so too was the level of consistency of the food itself: pureed does not mean the same thing to everyone.

We know that every individual we serve has unique needs, and to meet those needs safely and effectively, we must start from a place of common knowledge.

We also know it is imperative that every new employee throughout the system receives the same training in food preparation, as well as how to effectively carry out an individual’s personal care plan. Our initiative will support the success of these essential outcomes.

To spread the message system wide, this March (National Nutrition month and Developmental Disabilities Awareness month) trainings will begin locally. State and nonprofit group homes and other residential locations will begin receiving materials that clearly and concisely provide direction on standardized food consistencies and preparation. As part of this effort, we will be placing flexible cutting boards with directions printed on them in every home. Attached is an image of what homes will be receiving. 

We will continue sharing information as it is available. Once again, I would like to thank those from state and nonprofit programs who have been involved in this process, especially the committee of clinicians developing the new training curriculum. I would also like to thank the many people throughout the system who provided information and offered suggestions. That feedback resulted in a stronger final product that will help make the system safer for the individuals we serve. 


Commissioner Burke