Creating a path toward greater parity for aging adults and the disability community
This interview marks the thirteenth installment in the Making an Impact series, a collection of profiles and articles introducing some of our best and brightest leaders — individuals who are making tremendous impacts in the government sectors we serve.
Jen Sieminski, Clinical Implementation Manager, Clinical Services
Ms. Sieminski brings over 20 years of experience in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and dual diagnoses (IDD plus mental health conditions). A licensed social worker, Ms. Sieminski holds a master’s degree in Social Work and a bachelor's degree in psychology.
During her tenure at Maximus, Ms. Sieminski has held various roles and implemented a variety of statewide contracts on behalf of state governments for the administration of conflict-free healthcare assessments.
When did you start your career with Maximus? What was your first role?
I started my career with Maximus as a Regional Coordinator for the Pennsylvania (PA) Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) contract. In 2008, the company was Ascend Management Innovations, and approximately seven years later, Maximus acquired the Ascend team. In my role as Regional Coordinator, I was certified by the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) as a SIS® trainer, oversaw a network of field assessors, and successfully lead high-quality assessment administration across the state. Our work in PA not only helped to inform the best practices of future contracts like those in Tennessee and Virginia but also those of AAIDD. One of our greatest accomplishments in PA was establishing such rigorous heuristics and methodologies that ultimately earned us accolades and inquiries from the Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) following their independent statistical analysis of the data validity. Not only did we assist PA in obtaining one of the largest data sets in the nation, but it was also exemplary in terms of its reliability and consistency.
How does your current role align with "helping government serve the people?"
In my current role with the Clinical Services Division, I serve as a Clinical Implementation Manager. In this role, I contribute to several projects by facilitating internal team and state/stakeholder design discussions to ensure clinical alignment of needs, expectations, processes, data systems, and related decisions impacting existing, new, and potential lines of business. These activities are central to the success of our projects and company reputation, which in turn allows us to help governments best serve their constituents.
What inspired you to go into the field of social work?
I’ve always had a passion for helping others which I believe was fostered by my personal and familial involvement in both boy and girl scouting. Aside from curating my love of nature, hiking, and camping, through scouting, I received many wonderful opportunities to volunteer and support both older adults and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). When I first started college, I dually majored in Elementary and Special Education. However, as a young, full-time student, shouldering the expense of higher education and working 35+ hours a week to maintain it, my lack of immediate resources led me to switch my major to Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. Best decision ever! My women’s studies classes gave me a life-changing perspective, validation, and greater awareness of societal inequities. After years of rabble-rousing for a variety of causes and a decade of managing community residential settings for those with IDD, I decided to make a change, join Maximus, and pursue my master’s degree in Social Work. It was ultimately my ability to obtain licensure, have flexibility in my career path, and retain my love for and involvement in advocacy and social justice matters that brought me to where I am today — helping Government serve people.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I believe in the work Maximus is doing and feel that I can make a difference and contribute. I am confident that we can and do effect positive change across a variety of landscapes and programs, including aging and disabilities services. Maximus has shown trust and investment in my career advancement. I am grateful for the continued opportunities to design and inform business processes. As I approach my 14-year tenure with Maximus, I am excited to see so many of our efforts come to fruition — from proposal to implementation and beyond. I am also invigorated by our clinical evolution, understanding of the widespread impact of trauma, social determinants of health, and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion activities.
Great teams remain focused and steadfast in achieving their goals, understanding it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
What separates great programs from average ones?
I believe that good versus great programs have a lot to do with the integrity of their employees and their available resources. I believe deeply in our teams, and I have confidence in our senior leadership. Having access to a variety of resources, including skilled and experienced professionals and greater shared support capacity, has made a big difference in our ability to be proactive, plan, and be responsive. An excellent program team persists and isn’t derailed by the unexpected or simply reactive. Great teams remain focused and steadfast in achieving their goals, understanding it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Great programs foster confidence amongst its members and in each other. Our leaders recognize potential and invest in committed individuals. They model effective communication, allow for radical candor, operate transparently, and support productive solutioning. At the end of the day, we all understand our role as corporate citizens and the impact we have in the lives of individuals and governments.
How has technology changed the way you work?
Technology plays a massive role in our day-to-day work and dramatically impacts efficiency and growth prospects. Back in early 2020, we could have never imagined that a pandemic would force us all to work remotely and need to pivot so quickly. Nevertheless, we did — and we did it well. The advent of Zoom, Teams, and video meetings, in general, has really helped me stay connected and grounded to the work and our team.
Additionally, when I started nearly 14 years ago, pre-Maximus acquisition, I could only dream of a system or application that allowed us to integrate complex workflows and capture, measure, and report on so much data, so seamlessly. AssessmentPro is such an innovative, configurable, and powerful tool, and the state and federal landscape is so fertile and ready for change.
Modernizing, measuring, and managing is a foremost priority for most state and federal governments, and we have the tools to move them forward, improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Increasing our use of and reliance on technology, and specifically data mining and predictive analysis, are probably the most exciting and powerful evolutionary tools we have. We have an opportunity and obligation to help governments realize the necessity of assessing and redesigning their current service delivery and governance model. We can help deliver more sustainable and impactful programs and services.
What challenges do states face in serving the IDD population?
States face many challenges in serving those with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). This includes, but is not limited to, an overall aging population, a lack of data, and a lack of funding to support individuals in the most integrated settings. People with IDD are living longer, have a higher likelihood of comorbid conditions, and their families are often the primary support providers until a point of crisis or emergency is reached. As a result, there is a lack of insight into individual and group needs and urgencies, and this lack of insight also drives up costs. So much potential exists for various entities to collect data on both micro and macro levels and use it to improve insight, decision-making, and planning efforts and positively impact community capacity building, resource utilization, and service delivery. In many cases, there’s no central or consistent repository or a standard for feeding larger state or federal databases that allow for comparison and analysis. Data is critical to informing policies and services, and yet there is so much that remains unknown.
Additionally, needed supports and services are notoriously underfunded. This is especially true in Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) – which are often funded through Medicaid waivers and are optional for states to cover, unlike institutional services. Limits on HCBS supports lead to waitlists — and waiting for supports can perpetuate and exacerbate negative cycles for people and governments. Unfortunately, waiting lists for IDD services are all too common. Over 800,000 individuals are waiting for services across the U.S., per a recent Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) compendium (2020). This also means there are many opportunities for better waitlist management and support to bridge the gap and improve outcomes for those waiting. The time for change is now, and it cannot wait.
What positive impact can/does our Maximus IDD program have on the individuals and families?
Across the U.S., there are over 800,000 older adults and individuals with IDD waiting for services. Managing those lists and assessing an individual’s needs fairly and consistently leads to greater parity and the responsible distribution of limited resources. If states can identify the needs of those who are waiting and help connect individuals and families to services while they wait, it could lower costs, improve individual outcomes, and increase satisfaction of those waiting. For example, consider a state with a chronological waiting list structure (aka first-come, first-serve). This can lead to individuals joining a waitlist as soon as possible simply to reserve a slot. They may not have a current need but are anticipating a future need. Or, they may have a need now but do not realize alternative ways of meeting some or all needs sooner. People waiting may not realize they do not necessarily require the entire milieu of services they are waiting for, or even that they do not qualify for services based on their level of care or income limits. When states have an accurate waiting list and understand their constituent’s wants, needs, and the urgency of those needs, they can better plan for diversion, serving, and funding those needs.