Independent Living helps with life's struggles

Free services help people with addiction, homelessness, or disability


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  • A counselor evaluates each person who enters the facility and they then work together on setting goals together. "This is what sets us apart from other service providers, makes us passionate about what we’re doing," said Anne Miller, director of development.



By Geri Corey

— For people in Orange and Sullivan Counties who need help in their struggle with addiction, homelessness, or mental or physical disabilities, help is close by.

“We help people find their voice. We help them find access to their own independence. They have a choice and can navigate for themselves.”
Anne Miller, director of development

“Our home care services are vital for assisting hundreds of individuals in the Mid-Hudson region to stay healthy and remain living at home, as opposed to institutional settings," said Doug Hovey, executive director of Independent Living Inc. in Middletown. "We provide both licensed and non-licensed home care, and a range of complementary support services to make the difference between struggling to survive and living a good quality of life.”

Hovey’s statement best summarizes the purposes and goals of Independent Living that has been helping people cope for nearly 27 years since opening its doors, first in Newburgh and now offering satellite offices in Middletown and Monticello.

The programs and services that Independent Living provide are numerous and apply to all people — young and old — who need the help it provides. No fees are accepted for any of the services offered at Independent Living.

The ultimate goal of the program is to give people the tools they need to direct their own lives and become as self-sufficient as possible.

A sampling of programs include modifications that do the following:

Help people with disabilities live at home

Provide information and guidance for families with children with disabilities

Address deaf and hard-of-hearing difficulties

Provide help for homeless individuals with disabilities

Direct mental health services

Counselors like Judy Cooney, an Independent Living skills specialist, works with people with all disabilities — physical, developmental, or sensory — to learn skills and resources to live as independently as possible.

'Life changing and empowering'

Doug McGlynn recently spoke at the sixth annual Friends of Independence Breakfast in Middletown regarding the options for living that the nonprofit agency has brought to his life. Although a wheelchair user, Doug’s living in the comfort of his own home and has learned to make informed decisions for his care.

“I make my own doctor’s appointments so I can be flexible with the hours," he said. "I have more access to the community and am able to get involved in activities, I hire individuals to aid me. It’s empowerment in making my own experiences. In short I’m responsible for my care,” he explained, adding, “Learning from Independent Living has been life changing for me. It brought peace and joy to my life.”

People with disabilities operate the organization, and the counselors experienced difficulties similar to what others are going through, explained Anne Miller, director of development.

“It’s enormously helpful to be met by someone in your shoes — someone not just telling you, but knowing what you’re going through," Miller said.

A counselor evaluates each person who enters the facility and they then work together on setting goals together.

"This is what sets us apart from other service providers, makes us passionate about what we’re doing," said Miller.

Noting that Independent Living is “an incredible resource,” Hovey explained that it helps people stand on their own two feet and makes them aware of home care services.

Miller said one in five Americans has a disability: blind, deaf, mentally ill, unable to walk, or battle substance abuse. Only 15 percent are born with that disability; the rest is a result of accidents, age, or illness.

“For many, coming here is learning to address the disability," Miller said. "It’s become the ‘new normal’ for them."

“When an individual walks in here, the first interview is to determine: ‘What is your need and how can we help?’" said Cooney. "We want to understand why the person is here."

If the need is there, then he or she is referred to an appropriate staff member.

“We want people to know that they’re not alone,” said Peer Diversion Specialist Sarah Hoffler, who mainly counsels individuals battling substance abuse. "I often wind up sharing experiences with them and give them a different way of looking at something going on in their lives. Hopefully the person will take something from me."

“We help people to help themselves, because they don’t need a hand out, but a hand-up," Miller said. "We help, but we don’t ‘do’ for them."

If people are unable to come to the facility because of transportation or wheelchair issues, counselors will come to their homes.

In summing up the goal of Independent Living, Miller says: “We help people find their voice. We help them find access to their own independence. They have a choice and can navigate for themselves.”

To contact Independent Living, call 845-565-1162 or drop by at 66 Bennett St., Middletown.

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