David-Ferrie-ALSA-WI.jpgThis post is part of the series 14 Questions, featuring interviews with disability advocates regarding their work and insights into the Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) industry. In our latest post, Numotion Director of Advocacy Strategy, Justin Richardson interviews David Ferrie, Loan Equipment Program Coordinator for the ALSA Wisconsin chapter.
Richardson: How long have you been involved with the Wisconsin chapter and what drew you to the role of Equipment Program Coordinator? Why is this work meaningful to you?
Ferrie: I’ve been with ALSA-WI since October of 2015. I came to them by chance. I was just looking for a part-time job as a transition to retirement. My wife’s sister had died from the disease so when I saw the open position, I felt it was a good match. In fact, the Director of Care Services (Lori Banker-Horner) had been the person who cared for my sister-in-law. I’ve always liked helping people, but this job has put me in touch with people whose needs are so immediate, so vital and sometimes, so desperate that it has elevated my job to a purpose in life.

Richardson: By all accounts, the ALSA of Wisconsin loan closet is an incredibly well run operation. What best practices currently in place make yours a model program?
Ferrie: That’s a very nice thing to say. All I can tell you is that I standardized procedures so that there is clear, concise communication. Beyond that, the staff at all three Wisconsin Numotion sites and I have developed a friendly, cooperative and dedicated relationship. Everyone appreciates the others’ efforts and each person has shown a willingness to give 110% when it was needed.

Richardson: What type of equipment is typically available through the loan closet?
Ferrie: A short list includes: Power and manual wheelchairs; bathroom aides like shower benches, toilet safety rails and tilt-in-space shower chairs; power and manual patient lifts; four-wheel walkers; wheelchair ramps.

Richardson: Are PALS frequently able to borrow customized equipment that is close to what they will receive as their permanent personal equipment?
Ferrie: We try to fit each individual’s size needs as best we can. We also highly encourage those we serve to move forward with obtaining their own personal equipment through insurance as soon as possible in order to meet their fit and functional goals. Sometimes, minor adjustments need to be made to a power chair joystick or a tilt-in-space headrest and a tech at Numotion will assist.

Richardson: Is the equipment inventory purchased or does the loan closet rely on donations?
Ferrie: Both. But it all comes from donations. The lion’s share is gently used donated equipment. Sometimes though, we may be in desperate need of an item that will be purchased from funds donated specifically to our equipment program.

Richardson: Once you receive an equipment request, what can the recipient expect and how involved are they in the procurement process?
Ferrie: I make sure the patient is involved from the beginning. I confirm the type of equipment needed (including size and feature requirements), discuss what options we have available for them and then instruct them on the logistics of getting the item(s).

Richardson: I understand the loan closet is typically utilized to bridge the gap between the onset of need and receipt of an individual’s own permanent equipment. Once loaned, how long is equipment typically held before it is returned?
Ferrie: This interim type of equipment loan is usually for a power wheelchair. The wait time can take anywhere from weeks to months. As is the case for all equipment loaned out, the patient is told they can keep it for as long as they need it. However, though we never ask for the equipment back at a certain time, loaner equipment is never 100% what the individual will ultimately need and we encourage them to work with Numotion to obtain their personally configured chair

Richardson: Beyond the number of requests, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day to day operations?
Ferrie: Not much. ALS doesn’t care about the COVID-19 pandemic. It progresses and we must respond. That said, we have curtailed the number of equipment donations and have delayed equipment returns to minimize everyone’s exposure.

Richardson: Will the COVID-19 precautions implemented in the past several months remain in place once the widespread threat of the pandemic has passed?
Ferrie: Once it passes, I would think things will return to normal. But there has been so much structural change because of the pandemic that the program could be more effective and efficient in the end.

Richardson: Numotion has been a proud partner of the Wisconsin chapter and the loan equipment program for quite some time. To what do you credit the success of this relationship?
Ferrie: Commitment. Everything else - procedures, supply, demand, logistics, staffing – can be overcome with commitment. And Numotion has shown that they are committed to our mission of helping to make PALS’ lives just a little bit easier.

Richardson: What is the most significant challenge in operating the equipment program?
Ferrie: The challenges are numerous. Probably funding. (Surprised?) If our equipment program had more funding, we could afford to staff the equipment program beyond the current 20 hours per week. We could afford to fill in the gaps of service for our patients and make the quality of service more uniform.

Richardson: What is the most rewarding part of operating the equipment program?
Ferrie: Coming through for people who need you. I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than that. It’s even better when it’s a team effort.

Richardson: I understand you’ve been asked to share your experiences, tips, and best practices with other ALSA chapter leaders and loan equipment coordinators. What are the top two messages you hope to convey when doing so?
Ferrie: The first message would be that an equipment program has the most effective impact on a PALS life. The equipment provides some relative ease to a very difficult life. The second is the importance of finding a partner to help provide the logistics and support needed to make the program successful.

Richardson: For PALS in need of equipment across the country, what would be the best way to connect with their local loan closet?
Ferrie: I can only speak for Wisconsin. We have developed an integrated system with our Care Services Coordinators, Physical Therapists, Social Workers and other clinicians to identify equipment needs for our PALS. They then contact me to fulfill the request if the equipment is available. We also have put contact numbers on our website for PALS to contact the equipment program directly. Those served by other chapters would be encouraged to contact their local chapter or Care Services Director to obtain additional information.  
Justin Richardson, Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation


Justin Richardson, Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation

Justin Richardson is a manual wheelchair user of seventeen years and thirteen-year veteran of the seating and mobility industry. He has deep perspective and experience as a former ATP, operations manager, communications and customer experience leader. Currently Justin also serves as the Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation and sits on the Board of the North Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association.