Durand is a well-known, vibrant agency in southern New Jersey delivering a wide range of services for over 40 years to children and adults with autism and other special needs and their families. Durand now serves about 300 clients a year with a staff of over 300 professionals.
Durand traces its roots back to 1972 when Dr. Simone Durand Schulmann, a pioneer and forward-thinking individual, started her work in providing services to children with special needs. As an outgrowth of her work and her spirit of caring, Durand has continued to grow.
For over 40 years Durand has developed a reputation as an innovative organization in southern New Jersey. Our work has evolved from a focus on children to encompass all individuals on the spectrum throughout their lifespan as adults.
Durand’s annual financial support has grown from operating on a $5 million dollar budget to its current $17 million dollar budget, under the leadership of its Board of Trustees and Executive Team. We have concentrated on improving our operations to achieve excellence in the services we provide by modifying the organizational structure, upgrading the caliber of the management and key staff personnel, implementing more effective administrative and professional practices, and building a greater sense of whole entity awareness (rather than parochial identification) among our staff, parents, and other stakeholders in the community. The name change from “Durand Academy and Community Services, Inc.” to “Durand Inc.” in 2014 reflects this growth as we gain more depth in our multidimensional services.
Durand was one of the first agencies to recognize and identify the need for training for first responders (including police officers, firefighters, and other emergency services personnel) when they meet someone who demonstrates a behavioral pattern that is seen as defiant or unusual but may, in fact, be exhibiting a behavioral pattern of someone with autism. With support from the Doug Flutie Foundation, we took the initiative to develop and implement the innovative, forward-thinking First Responders Autism Training Program. As a result, more than 3,000 individuals who work with the police and fire departments, as well as school districts, have been trained on methods to reduce the frequency and intensity of incidences that involve individuals with autism. This training conducted by former federal and law enforcement professionals resulted in a video for dissemination.
Durand responded to the needs of parents and others in the community by introducing an annual awards program in 2014, which honored Dr. Temple Grandin, now “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world,” to receive the Dr. Durand Schulmann Achievement Award. A sellout crowd of 500 people attended this community event, which garnered remarkable media coverage. It was a fabulous success.
Moved by her experience at Durand, Dr. Temple Grandin agreed to establish the Dr. Temple Grandin Achievement Award. This annual award honors an individual who has made a major contribution to the field of autism in increasing public awareness and is chaired by a committee of prestigious and professional individuals. This awards program continues to generate community awareness via newspaper, magazine, radio, television, and other media including online outlets of Durand’s work throughout southern New Jersey and the region.
Durand receives excellent ratings by state and regulators in regards to contract compliance and fiscal management. For example, Durand was selected by the state to go on an unusual two-year oversight cycle because of its excellence in contract compliance.
Durand’s school and day programs are experiencing enormous growth with the school opening a preschool program. In the last half-century, the prevalence of autism has grown exponentially: 50 years ago autism rates were about 1 in 5,000 Americans whereas recent studies report 1 in 59 Americans is affected by autism.
Demographic trends will influence autism in the coming decade. For example, the population identified as autistic will grow bigger, particularly in the adult range. Service providers refer to this coming change as a tsunami, described in “The Politics of Autism” book by John J. Pitney, Jr., as follows: “After a large ocean wave that is barely visible when it moves over deep water but packs great power when it hits land, the general population will be getting older just as the autism tsunami arrives. At age 21 the school bus stops coming and the students on their 22nd birthday no longer qualify for services and that wonderful school enriching experience just disappears.”
To prepare for this growth, Durand has opened a third day program and is looking to start a fourth day program. Families turn to our school and community services as the go-to program to receive care and treatment for individuals with behavioral and dual diagnosis. The agency employs a state-of-the-art crisis intervention program along with family support services. A nationally recognized evidence-based curriculum for adults in program settings is also used.
Durand is committed to improve the lives of all individuals and families affected by autism.Given its growth with an operating budget that represents a 20% increase from a year ago, Durand stands strong. For example, Durand has implemented an after school program, which is an extraordinary service, and it is growing.
Durand transitioned its operations and funding mechanism to a Medicaid system, which reflects an increase in revenue for the organization because of higher reimbursement rates, the increased complexity of clients, and higher tiers of care required for clients with complex needs. Durand is the go-to agency for the most challenging individuals.
Our advocacy work extends to many families each year, including planning for the future, making the transition from school to the adult services system, and promoting a greater understanding of residential options.
Based on all the accomplishments Durand has achieved, we look forward to a bright future. We encourage others to join us in supporting our mission-driven work of providing services and programs that impact the lives of the people we serve, which helps build a stronger community for all of us.