Statement About Durand, Inc.
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 250 clients a year with a staff of 230 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 $12 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 68 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 respite 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. Due to the significant increase in demand for quality-driven services for people living with autism, the leadership of Durand decided a new campus center needed to be built.
Given the need for a new campus center, a variety of strategies were initiated. A core group of project managers—engineers who were instrumental in creating a well-known nonprofit agency in southern New Jersey as the premier leader in the field—joined the Durand Board of Trustees to generously donate their expertise. A Building Committee was formed, made up of high-level professionals with extensive experience in construction and building who have built projects regionally and around the world.
Durand receives government funding for its work and purchased 11 acres of land with a grant. So far, some of the engineering work for the new campus center has been completed. [Durand recently was informed that a major funder, a state agency that initially indicated financial support for the project, had encountered serious challenges and was therefore no longer in a position to help fund the project.] The agency is looking for outside funding.
Undeterred in its vision for a new campus center, Durand has made changes in its strategy for moving forward with the project and has developed a revised plan to achieve its goal. 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 afterschool program, which is an extraordinary service, and it is growing. Therefore, more than ever, the need for more space is critical to meet the growing needs of the work of Durand in delivering much-needed services to children and adults with special needs in our communities.
The agency developed its fundraising arm, Durand Foundation, which raises additional income per year and runs two signature events. The leadership of Durand Inc. and the Durand Foundation, who serve as ambassadors for the organization, are presently looking for a major benefactor to support the building of our new campus center. A future goal is to hire a Director of Development who can help Durand achieve its vision.
Durand is transitioning its operations and funding mechanism to a Medicaid system, which will reflect 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.
Durand will look for opportunities to acquire other small agencies that will experience challenges when there is a full conversion to the Medicaid reimbursement system. In addition, Durand is now working with The Autism Society—the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization with headquarters in Washington, DC—to identify and elevate best practices for dissemination across the network of peer affiliates. We look forward to this partnership with other organizations in connecting families with appropriate services and applying best practices in our work together.
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.