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Meet Amara

Amara, an MRI Day Vocational Training and VISIONS participant, lives in MRI’s apartment-style group home.

Before moving into MRI’s apartment-style group home near downtown Decatur, Amara had experienced multiple types of living situations. As she was growing up, Amara had a great support system that allowed her to live at home and transitioned to living independently when she reached adulthood. However, after many life complications, she moved into a large group home with 15 other individuals.

Amara didn’t cope well living with that many people.  She struggles socially and began to lose some of her acquired social and daily living skills. Amara knew she needed a change. She was aware of MRI’s apartment-style group home and knew she had the skills and desire to live independently. Amara advocated for herself and requested she be put on the waitlist for a spot in the apart-style setting.

MRI owns and operates nine group homes in the Decatur area; four to eight people live in each home with full-time daily support staff. These homes are called Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILA). People with intellectual disabilities build independent living skills like room care, personal care, social skills and community integration with the help of our CILA staff. Each person’s unique needs are met through family-style dining, personalized rooms and individualized services. By living in an MRI CILA home, individuals not only gain skills, but staff ensure that residents know how to use medical support.

Since moving into her own apartment in MRI’s apartment-style group home, Amara has been budgeting her money, decorating, cleaning her apartment and cooking daily meals. Through Amara’s self-advocacy she can now live on her own and also benefit from the safety and support of 24 hour support staff. Amara commutes on the public bus system and goes shopping whenever she wants. Her next goal is to get a job in the community.

Not only did Amara advocate for herself by asking to move into a more fitting living environment, but she also requested a spot in MRI’s VISIONS Mental Health Program. Amara was already in MRI’s Day Vocational Training program, but felt she would do well in a program that focused on mental health.

For more information on MRI’s Residential Services, click here. For more in the VISIONS mental health program, click here.

Illinois State Capitol Building

Illinois General Assembly’s Budget Impacts MRI Programming

House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have sent the governor a budget that contains a nearly $4 billion shortfall. This is the 12th year in a row that the two leaders have passed an unbalanced budget. It is likely that only the most vulnerable of Illinois citizens will suffer in this annual legislative arm wrestling match. MRI has absorbed a 2.25% cut in funding this year and faces further cuts beginning July 1st including loss of all state funding of the Kid’s Connection and respite programs. This will amount to a $250,000 funding cut.

We have written our local Legislators and Governor. Only the Governor’s office has replied. It would seem now is a good time to fix the problems in Illinois government. They could enact severe cuts, raise taxes or do a little bit of both. What we can do is continue to call their offices and pray the General Assembly will come to their senses.

MRI will continue Kid’s Connection and group based respite on a fee basis. There will be no in home respite services. This will begin on July 1, 2015. I received a memo today from the Department of Human Services advising that some agencies would receive contracts for next year and some would not. Either way the funding will stop until our “leaders” come to agreement.

Dreux Lewandowski, MRI Executive Director

(originally published June 23, 2015)