Two decades ago, Nancy Bentley set out to establish an Independent Living Center to serve southeast Utah. The name Active Re-Entry was chosen to both represent the goal that the non-profit agency would try to accomplish as well as place it at the front of the phone book, because its name begins with the letter A.
Over the years, the center has provided A-plus services for the community and beyond. The center staff has seen the ups and downs of the economy affect the amount of available funds for services. But Bentley stresses that no matter what, the center is here to stay and services will continue.
The focus of the Independent Living (IL) center is to help people live as independently as possible despite disabilities. This concept was a movement born out of the 70's and 80's in California, where people who had disabilities and needed assistance were confined to live in nursing homes. People in their teens, 20s and 30s were forced to live in what they felt were prison-like conditions because their only "crime" was the need for help.
Active Re-Entry serves seven counties in the state; from Daggett County to the north down to San Juan County in the south. There are six IL centers in the state. All hold nonprofit status. The centers operate with state contracts to provide services. Like all state agencies and others under state contract, Active Re-entry took an across the board cut in their contracts that amounted to about 12-13%.
The loss of funding was absorbed by cutting a staff person in Blanding and shifting those duties to the Moab satellite staff, Joey Allred, who will drive monthly to San Juan County. Also, two staff members were cut from the Vernal office and the office closed. . Those duties are now shouldered by a staff person who works from home, as well as acting as long-term care ombudsman for Uintah basin.
One cut that is significant is the loss of a central pot of money that the center was able to access to pay for Assistive Technology (AT). Last year, that funding was 1.3 million dollars. The seven counties the center served used $651,000 from that source. That money was not just cut back, but was totally eliminated in the belt- tightening budget cuts.
AT funding is used for a wide range of items. It is also the source of last resort after every other avenue to purchase an item has been exhausted. Many items are low ticket purchases such as grab bars ($90 per set), toilet risers ($60), or CCTV light bulbs ($60). There is also a need for wheelchair and scooter batteries ($250), emergency call systems ($125-$400) four wheel scooters ($3,000) and ramps ($500 and up) and many other items.
The center has a loan bank to recycle equipment when the original owner no longer needs it, but, to date, the cupboard is almost bare as most things are loaned out. So the center accesses Community Services Block Grant money in four of the seven counties it serves. There is $100,000 dollars to be distributed among Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. The largest share, $51,000, is designated to the San Juan area. Grand had access to $9,000, Carbon's amount $21,000 and Emery's allocation is $20,000. As of now, the rules prohibit any such funding to purchase wheelchair ramps, but the Center is currently appealing that rule.
Bentley stresses that each piece of purchased equipment saves the state money. When a person can do things for himself, he needs less expensive aid in the long run. If a person has a ramp and/or a scooter, he can leave his home for routine tasks such as filling his own prescriptions, shopping and transporting himself to receive medical care. Without such assistance, he is reliant on others. If that help is not available, he could end up in a nursing home. Someone who has access to a closed circuit magnifying TV (CCTV) can stay employed when his vision starts to deteriorate. Installing bath bars in a home can prevent falls and save thousands in medical costs.
Who uses the center for help with equipment? It covers a wide variety of needs. The center is the only program that serves every disability and age group. There are many other programs in the state, but most target a specific problem or need. There are children's services, mental health services, elderly programs, work and veterans- related services. The center overlaps and fills in gaps while first directing individuals to the programs that might best meet their specific needs.
Individuals who use the services are both young and old. The may be non-insured, receive Medicaid or Medicare coverage, or utilize traditional insurance care plans. Their disabilities stem from injuries, illnesses, and birth defects. Anyone may need such services for themselves or a family member at some time in their lives.
Even while utilizing CDBG funding, the center will fall short of the amount of money they have had in the past to try and meet all community needs. To help serve as many people as possible, the center holds ongoing fund raising efforts throughout the year. On Saturday, Sept. 26, the Center will hold its annual "Run, Walk and Roll" 5K race. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Active Re-Entry parking lot. There is still time to sign up. Late registration will take place at 8:00 am on Saturday. The entry fee includes a t-shirt.
The center is always looking for volunteers. You can also donate cash or used Assistive Technology equipment for the loan bank. The center is nonprofit and donations are tax deductible. For more information about the race or any other services that the center provides, call 435 637-4950.