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A Guide to Services for Special Needs Adults – Residential Options

This is blog post is one in a series by contributing blogger Heather Johnson.

The plan for most adults with disabilities is to eventually get a place of their own in the community, and there are a couple of ways to make that happen. This blog will discuss some options and some things to consider when making residential plans.

Community Living Arrangements (or CLA’s) are what most people know as “group homes.” Group homes can be for between one to four individuals; any placement with more than four people is known under a different name. One-person homes need to be authorized by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) because it is important that our individuals aren’t isolated from the community; in addition, one person homes are much more expensive to fund. Because of this, one person homes are challenging to obtain through the waiver. CLAs generally have 24 hour staffing, and staff is hired by the provider agency to do things such as assist with activities of daily living, cook, provide transportation to day programs/appointments/community outings, and medication administration. The maintenance of the house (cleaning, laundry) varies depending on the functioning level and goals of the individual, but ultimately is the responsibility of the provider agency. The staff-to-client ratio varies dependent on the functioning level and need of all the individuals in the house, but is generally 1:3 or 2:4. In addition to the daily fee paid through the waiver, an individual in a CLA also has to give 72% of their social security to the provider agency for room and board fees. Any additional expenses, such as clothes, cable, money for community events, etc. are not included.

Group homes are not the only residential option. Sometimes, people will decide to open their homes up for individuals with a disability to live with them as family; this service is called Life Sharing or Family Living. The idea behind Life Sharing is that the individual will have as typical a life as possible, and be included in a family setting instead of a staffed arrangement such as a CLA. In Life Sharing, the individual is included in things like holidays and weekend excursions, and follows the schedule of the family. This service also has a daily rate paid by the waiver, and 72% of the individual’s social security goes to paying for room and board. Generally, families get paid a monthly stipend from a provider agency that covers bills, food, and household expenses (such as cleaning supplies). The family in most cases is responsible for medication administration and transportation, and the chore arrangement is agreed upon before the individual moves in. Most families agree to one year of services, but that can be shorter if the arrangement isn’t working out. However, there are individuals who have been with the same family for years. In this service, the most important thing is ensuring a good match between the family and individual. Unfortunately, parents/siblings/other family cannot be Life Sharing providers for their own family members.

Some other residential options include Reverse Life Sharing, in which a caretaker moves in with an individual in their own home, and Unlicensed Homes which only have a maximum of 30 hours of staffing per week.

All these services require a Consolidated Waiver, as the daily rate is between $100-$400 per day. There are a few other options for individuals without that waiver, such as boarding homes or low-cost apartments that can be paid for with Social Security; unfortunately, these places can be few and far between.

The future living arrangements for family members with an intellectual disability can be a hard decision to make, but your Supports Coordinator should be able to inform you of the options available to you based on individual resources.

Heather Johnson is a Supports Coordinator Supervisor at The Arc Alliance, a nonprofit organization supporting families and individuals of all ages with developmental and other disabilities. In addition to her personal experience as a family member of those with special needs, she has been working for 18 years in all areas of the special needs community. Heather is one of the guest bloggers who will periodically post information for Kokua Network members.

Posted in : Article, Blog
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