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Published: October 21, 2019
Information and Referral Q&A

Image: Photos of Jaime HArrell and Maritta Coffey

Image: Photos of Jaime HArrell and Maritta Coffeyby Amber Carlton


For most consumers of The IC, the first person they talk to is Maritta Coffey, Information and Referral (I&R) Specialist. Each month, she connects with anywhere from 200-300 people from Colorado Springs and The IC’s six county catchment area. But what is Information and Referral exactly? We sat down with Maritta and Jaime Harrell, IL Program Manager, to find out.

Can you explain what I&R is and what it does?

Jamie Harrell (JH): It’s one of the five core services of the Centers for Independent Living (CIL) that every CIL across the country offers to their communities. So no matter which CIL you go to, you’ll find it there.

Maritta Coffey (MC): Through I&R, we provide resources and referrals so that individuals with disabilities can maintain, obtain, or become independent.

Is I&R just for people with disabilities?

JH: I&R is unique in that we offer disability-related resources to anybody of any age – community members, agencies, businesses, individuals with or without disabilities. It’s really a resource for the whole community, not just for people who have disabilities. So if you are invested with people with disabilities, you should be reaching out to The IC to gain access to these resources and find connections.

How can someone connect with I&R?

MC: People can call, email, or walk in. For calls and emails, I respond to them with resources and information. If someone walks in, they just check in at the front desk and fill out their required paperwork. Then they meet with me and we talk about their situation and what resources are available to potentially help them.

Do people have to know what they want or need before they contact I&R?

JH: A lot of times when people come in, they don’t know what they want. They just know that they want support in learning skills or finding resources, support groups, housing, or a job. And they don’t know those next steps. So that’s where I&R comes
in. We help people look at the bigger picture and figure out what the resources are in the community and what the resources are at The IC. We help them navigate that process and connect people to the next steps.

Is it easy to get them the resources they need?

MC: For some things, yes. But for other things, there are sometimes other barriers that may be keeping them from achieving their goals. If they’re looking for housing, for example, there might be some other things they need to take care of first. So let’s say they don’t have good credit. We’ll give them information on how to fix that. Depending on the situation, it takes time to sit down and talk to them and figure out how to move forward.

Do you prefer to talk directly to the potential consumer, or can a caregiver handle it for them?

MC: We always try to talk directly to the person with the disability, whenever possible. It’s not always about giving out information that you can just Google. It’s figuring out what else they need to live independently. So we want to work towards helping people with that and it sometimes takes some time. And their participation is oh-so-important because it’s driven by them and what they want to do. People really like that they are going to be empowered.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

MC: I’m always excited when I talk to someone and then I see them come in later and they’re changing and happy and really independent. It’s absolutely genuine and it’s all them doing it. They’re thriving because they’re in control. It’s life-changing to see that.

If you’d like to learn more about the disability-related information and resources The IC offers, call Maritta at 719-471-8181, email her at mc*****@th****.org, or just drop in!

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