These programs are operated by very passionate advocates. One of these diligent individuals is Larry Hamilton, who is a resident of Chicago and who is the first project coordinator of what's known as, “The Nursing Home Deflection" in the Illinois Balance and Incentive program, a program for people who are hospitalized. In partnership with Rush Medical University Hospital, the program decreases long-term admission into nursing facilities.
Through funding from the Illinois Department on Aging, Access Living staff can assist eligible patients through the transition process from hospital to home by connecting them with flexible supports and funding. Patients/consumers can expect help with finding payment for workers who help them keep their body and home clean, products to increase independence in the home, contractors who can renovate portions of their home to increase accessibility, and subsidies to cover housing or relocation costs.
Time is of the essence to the people involved in the program. Each case has to be secured within ninety days with a mandate to help twelve people a year. Along with twenty-eight more consumers who require services from one degree to another.
Access Living is the pioneer of the NH Deflection Project role and its program. The Deflection role in this program is sponsored by aderc, the Illinois disability recovery centers.
Being a Deflector is no easy task. Everyone must be on point, ready to spring in to assist with a consumer/patient. Hamilton has quite a bit of duties from start to finish. First receiving the referral from Rush Medical and then contacting directly. Once Hamilton locates the consumer, a intake/interview and needs assessment will be done. At that point the ball really gets to rolling and that means its full service time. Those who have been hospitalized are now preparing to transition to their own apartment. They will be given much needed services,while Hamilton conducts the person centered planning in order that consumer/patients lifestyle and life changes and concerns are addressed. Providing services as well as securing a Section 8 Voucher for the clients while trying to find an apartment that fits their needs challenging. Thanks to our project partners, the coordination process has made the struggle towards independent living all worth it.
"My job is to work with the screeners from Rush Hospital and Thresholds. And they’re the clinical hands on people, assessing people. They refer their patients over to us," Hamilton said in an interview. "I’ll retrieve information or someone from screening team or several people from the screening team might go personally to a landlord so that’s the individual I’ll be hearing from."
Hamilton is used to the go-getter style though, having just acquired his second degree from Malcolm X College after obtaining his Associates of Science Degree in 1985.
"This is the first time I’ve been able to serve others with disabilities, other than serving myself with my own disabilities. I found, if it's challenging, then when you’re passionate about what you do it’s not really work. It’s exercise," Hamilton explained.
Hamilton started at Access Living under a seniors program called SER, or the Seniors Education Employment Recovery Jobs Program. “I was under Bhuttu Mathew’s tutelage. And that was on the first floor. And I was helping with disability resources. Making calls, sending housing lists to people that wanted them,and telling people about our services. Asking what kinds of things they were looking for at Access Living, and referring them to Bhuttu.”
The "exercise" Hamilton proudly pursues every day is exercise worthwhile because it's what he likes to do. He has a fierce desire to help others.
“It’s been comforting because I do have passion for serving people in general," he proudly exclaimed.
That determination comes from boisterously navigating and living with his disabilities in addition to his various other accomplishments such as becoming a leader of the black student union in high school.
At 64 years old, Hamilton is extremely proud of his accomplishments and the program because to the clients, this is life changing. Many disabled individuals who repeatedly end up in hospitals are, eventually, placed in nursing homes. While a nursing home is certainly a stable place to stay, Hamilton asserts that it's not enough, and this is why the Deflector is here, to prevent living in a nursing home where patience are forgotten.
"There are different trash bins and garbage in our environment outside. And you know there are stray dogs. And a stray dog or cat seeks shelter in one of those type of environments. It doesn’t necessarily say that he’s better off because he has a roof over his head."
For some, a nursing home is a place to be. Access Living, however, demonstrates that people don’t have to be in a nursing home when there are programs, such as the Deflector, ready and waiting to move people out of nursing homes and to keep people out of nursing homes.
Story by Robert Kingett