Positive Practices in Pennsylvania is a longstanding philosophy with its roots going back to the beginnings of Positive Approaches and Everyday Lives.  Positive Practices is composed of state and regional work groups whose focus is to explore and expand local capacity, training, resources, cross- system collaboration, and ways to meet the needs of the local community, particularly for those individuals who are considered most challenging and those with a dual diagnosis (Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness).

The Positive Approaches philosophy is the backbone of Positive Practices in Pennsylvania. Positive Approaches involves supporting people in a holistic way, by paying attention to all aspects of life including, but not limited to:  Environment, Communication, Assessment, and “Hanging In There.”  The basic concepts of Positive Approaches are simple: people always have good reasons for the things they do; and people do the best they can with what they know at any given time.  One of the pioneers of Positive Approaches was Herb Lovett, whose book, Learning to Listen, captures the spirit of this way of life. Pennsylvania’s commitment to Positive Approaches is described in Bulletins and other Resources.

Positive Approaches emphasizes the Positive Practices concepts of:

  • Treating all individuals with dignity and respect
  • Getting to know each person and their unique qualities and personal history
  • Emphasizing the importance of assuring all individuals have a method to communicate their wants/needs
  • Assuming all behavior has meaning
  • Determining the reasons for troubling behavior

The focus is not on fixing the person, but on building competencies and creating opportunities and offering choices for each person to live a fulfilling life – an Everyday Life.

In 2006, the Positive Practices statewide and regional groups were instrumental in the development, release and support of the Elimination of Restraints through Positive Practices Bulletin #00-06-06.  This bulletin focuses on the core philosophies of the Intellectual Disabilities System: an Everyday Life, and person-centered thinking through Positive Practices.  This bulletin was developed in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ Alternatives to Coercive Techniques (ACT) initiative that is focused on the goal of eliminating the use of restraints throughout the service system.

While this bulletin does not prohibit the use of restraints, it does state that restraints should be considered as a last resort, when the person’s immediate health and safety is in jeopardy.  The statewide Positive Practices committee is responsible for monitoring restraint data statewide, and encouraging the use of evidence-based alternatives to restraint.  Quarterly meetings include presentations on a wide variety of topics designed to disseminate information about best practices in supporting people with complex needs.