For almost 30 years, Dan Richason has been serving children, youth, families, educators and service providers. Richason’s company, System 1-2-3, focuses on facilitating positive outcomes for families and children by building capacity with the people, programs, and systems that serve them. System 1-2-3 facilitators work with numerous organizations in western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, Early Learning Resource Center 4, Westmoreland County Behavioral Health, Westmoreland Community Action, Seton Hill Child Services, and accessAbilities.
In 2018, Dan Richason met Dr. Crystal Morrison at an UpPrize Competition information session in Pittsburgh. They both described their ideas for the competition, however, after hearing Richason describe his “muddled vision for Meerkat Village,” Dr. Morrison immediately saw the potential because she understood the need deeply. A mother of 3, Dr. Morrison knows the challenges of navigating systems of care for children in need. One of her children was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder over 10 years ago. For years, she’s interfaced with almost 100 different teachers, therapists, specialists, pediatricians, psychiatrists and counselors across multiple states. Dr. Morrison says, “I’ve always been the one communicating between his team of teachers and providers because they don’t talk to each other. Lack of communication isn’t necessarily the fault of teachers and providers. The system is antiquated and doesn’t really encourage efficient communication between providers. It’s exhausting, inefficient and I’ve been left frustrated time and time again. Ultimately, it’s my kid that suffers and I just won’t accept that anymore.” From that point, Morrison was devoted to the Meerkat Village concept and helping Richason drive the idea to reality. While they didn’t win the UpPrize Competition in 2018, they powered forward and refined the idea. In 2019, Richason and Morrison worked with a software company to create a functional prototype of Meerkat Village focused on enabling communication and collaboration of adults surrounding a child in need.
Moving the Meerkat Village prototype to a fully functional software product was no small feat. In late 2019, Richason and Morrison partnered with John Lohr, Cameron Kolick and Todd Weimer of EduReady360 to create a new software company, Integrated Village, to develop the debut Meerkat Village product. The Integrated Village team is a motley crew of parents, innovators, software developers, scientists and educators with a mission is to leverage technology to promote social and emotional wellness. The team fully realizes that addressing the medical, social, emotional and behavioral needs of children has become increasingly challenging. Parents feel powerless, therapists feel alone and educators may feel like they’ve tried everything. The current global pandemic has made these challenges even more daunting. Meerkat Village is a novel software platform that improves outcomes for children in need by connecting the adults that surround them.
In April of 2020, Integrated Village successfully launched the Meerkat Village pilot and is planning the full release for the summer of 2020.
Meerkat Village is unique because it:
- is designed to empower families and integrate service provision for children with social, emotional and behavioral needs;
- enables adults to communicate and develop strategies, define and document the use of those strategies on a single page, and collect outcome data with ease; and
- remains with each family until their child turns 18 at no additional cost.
On April 27th, a Westmoreland county mom opened the very first village for her 5 yr old child. Less than an hour after opening the village and signing electronic consent forms, the child’s early childhood education (ECE) teacher, ECE supervisor, early intervention (EI) teacher, therapeutic staff support (TSS) professional and behavioral specialist consultant (BSC) accepted invitations from the mother and were able to communicate as a team within the software. Start to finish, 52 minutes is unheard of speed for bringing families and professionals together. Dr.Crystal Morrison, Integrated Village CEO says “In the past, it’s taken almost 52 days for me to arrange meetings with my son’s treatment team and teachers. Connecting adults and allowing them to communicate in 52 minutes is revolutionary! Just imagine how that efficiency and effective communication will improve outcomes for children everywhere!” Even more impressive is the family will have access to the virtual village at no additional charge until the child turns 18. The village will remain a tool and resource as the child grows, independent of transitions in providers, services, schools, locations, etc.