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Life outside the nursing home

Some 250 people with disabilities who have been able to move out of nursing homes through Access Living’s deinstitutionalization program have been invited to a celebration of independent living tomorrow, Friday, April 16, at 1 p.m. at  Access Living, 115 W. Chicago.

At the event, people with disabilities will talk about life in institutions and about their experiences getting out and living independently.

Access Living has helped nursing home residents move into their own homes with personal assistance services since 1998.  The disability rights group helps individuals find an apartment, provides the security deposit, first month’s rent, and furnishings, and offers a monthly support group for people who are new to living on their own.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling more than ten years ago that people with disabilities have the right to alternatives to nursing home care, Illinois ranks among the worst states in providing integrated settings.  Three recent lawsuits by Access Living, Equip for Equality and others have challenged the state’s funding system, which heavily favors nursing homes; settlements are pending in two of the cases.  Advocates have called for changing the funding system so that individuals have greater choice.

There are over 30,000 people living in nursing homes in Cook County, and surveys have shown that one-third of elderly residents and 60 percent of non-elderly residents would prefer receiving long-term care services in their own homes.

Home-based services are far less expensive than nursing home care — but the nursing home industry is well-connected politically.

Until Illinois reforms its system to provide community-based choices, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, “Access Living, through its deinstitutionalization program, is helping people achieve independence, one person at a time,” said Gary Arnold.  “It’s not an easy process,” he adds.

Last year Newstips interviewed one veteran of the deinstitutionalization program.  “It feels like I broke out of jail,” said Roonie Bradford, who said he continues trying to help others he knew in institutions get out.

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Category: disability

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