The START Professional Learning Community

The START Professional Learning Community (PLC), previously called the START Network, began in 2011 and has continued to develop an identity of commitment, collaboration and cultivation of learning. The START PLC is comprised of all START Programs across North America who share resources, information and expertise through structured learning environments facilitated by the Center for START Services. The PLC is a means to help unify and enhance the service systems providing supports to those with IDD and behavioral health needs. It is an evidence-based, cost-effective solution for the need for more training across disciplines to share and develop knowledge while growing communities.

There are several shared attributes of all START PLC members:

  • Commitment among members to be available to one another through support and knowledge sharing.

  • Members have a desire and are dedicated to continuously learning and expanding knowledge to advance the field as a whole.

  • Members quickly apply new knowledge to day to day practice. The sharing and application of new knowledge and skill creates greater confidence and enthusiasm and increasing satisfaction and morale amongst START team members.

The PLCs themselves, regardless of their context or focus, also share several commonalities:

  • a group of people who share and critically interrogate their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, growth-promoting way;

  • a collective enterprise that seeks to share and act on learning to enhance effectiveness as professionals, advocates, and;

  • a community of supportive, continuous inquiry and improvement that draws innovation from a diverse range of people.

START Programs participate in PLC activities on many levels including internal peer review and learning opportunities, engagement with the local community through Clinical Education Teams and other learning opportunities and on a national level. The Center for START Services currently provides the following learning opportunities:

  • Annual Luncheon. The Center for START Services typically hosts an annual national forum for networking among START programs in various locations.

  • Study Groups: The START Network provides opportunities for collaborative learning through a number of study groups. The Clinical Director’s Study Group, Resource Center Director’s Study Group, Clinical Team Leader Study Group meet on a monthly basis. The Children’s Study Group, Medical Director’s Group and Program Directors meet quarterly. The purpose of these study groups is to have a forum to discuss issues and topics directly related the relevant START job position. On occasion, other disciplines can be invited to certain study groups, especially when special guests and/or presentations are scheduled to occur.

  • Online START Information Center: The Center for START Services has developed a comprehensive online information center for all START teams. Links to past trainings, publications, and more provide vital value-added resources for all START Programs.

  • Quarterly National START Newsletter: The Center for START Services offers a quarterly newsletter that is sent to all network members which offers a letter from the Director of the Center for START services, highlights and news from the START Programs across the country along with important programmatic and quality updates.

  • Annual National START Training Institute: A two and a half day training institute designed to bring innovative and new evidence-based research and practice information to the START network along with other providers who support or are interested in supporting individuals with IDD and behavioral health needs.

  • Local Cross Discipline Learning Group Courses: In 2015, the professional learning community expanded to include the development of local, regional, and statewide groups representing a cross section of providers and disciplines as part of the National START training for trainers. The PLCs consist of up to 10-12 learners with an instructor. Each "course" takes 6-12 months to complete. Examples of courses currently under way across the US include: Mental Health Aspects of IDD (Intellectual/Developmental Disability), Crisis Prevention and Intervention, Child MH and IDD. Participants include mental health providers, residential providers, self-advocates, and case managers.