Helping people with disabilities stay out of the institutional setting

Feb 8, 2018

Helping people with disabilities stay at home and in their communities, rather than putting them in group homes or nursing homes.

That’s the mission of the North Dakota Statewide Independent Living Council.

"It's to help people to live in their communities, their homes, and living independent lives," said council chairman Brittney Hogan  of Minot. She was asked how North Dakota is doing toward fulfilling that goal.

"I think we have some great centers for independent living," Hogan said. "But being such a rural state, we have barriers."

Those centers provide services to people so they can live independently.

"Asking people to have to travel three hours for services can be quite difficult, especially when the roads are covered with snow," Hogan said.

Scott Burlingame is the director for Independence, Incorporated – the independent living center that serves Minot and northwest North Dakota. He said most people who have disabilities want to live at home – but there are struggles.

"Everything's packaged up when you move into a group home, a nursing home or something like that," Burlingame said. "One of the biggest challenges we have is to make it as easy to live in the community as it is to live in some kind of institution.":

Burlingame said while North Dakota is making progress every year toward having more of the disabled living independently, a majority of funding still goes towards institutional care.

"Sometimes, we have to fight the battle of hearts and minds, and say, 'Where do you want to receive services?' And 'Can we make it easy for you?'" Burlingame said. "We have a lot of work to do yet."

About 1200 people statewide are served through independent living centers.

The Council met in Bismarck this week.