TERRE HAUTE —
In 2008 when Travis Phillips completed his degree at Indiana State University, he started searching for housing that would meet his need to live independently.
Phillips – a Montezuma native who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 18 months – turned to United Cerebral Palsy of the Wabash Valley for assistance. He found placement in independent living at the Bell Apartments on Poplar Street, and he also found a new “family” that has grown through the past five years.
UCPWV executive director Susie Thompson said that Phillips is one example of the many success stories of the organization, which has the mission of improving the life and well-being of individuals with disabilities through advocacy, outreach, service and support. UCPWV helps people with all disabilities and their families in Clay, Greene, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties, and one of the agency’s funding sources is the United Way of the Wabash Valley.
“We have been a United Way agency for years,” Thompson said. “We are very grateful for what funding we get from the United Way because it allows us to be affiliated with a wonderful organization, and it’s a way the community invests in us.”
Recent statistics show that UCPWV assists about 1,500 people annually, including 600 children in area school systems. The organization also makes about 300 medical device loans and purchases that give people the extra help they need to reside in their own home, rather than an assisted living facility.
It costs about $7,000 per month for nursing home care, Thompson said, but a consumer who can stay in an independent living apartment or house has a monthly housing cost of about $400 per month, and that is a big difference. The adaptive equipment purchase and loan program has helped both adults and children retain their independence by providing wheelchairs, walkers, specially-equipped computers and communication devices.
In the case of one consumer who lost her ability to speak due to throat cancer, UCP provided her a communication device.
The school systems also have a limited amount of money, so it is not feasible to buy equipment for children whose needs are constantly changing.
“It’s not unusual for an item to cost several hundred dollars,” Thompson said, “and if it is specialized, it can’t be mass produced.”
UCP is also able to fill the gap for people who have a medical equipment need that is not totally covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. If a child outgrows a wheelchair or walker before being eligible to receive a new one through insurance, UCP will work with local medical equipment providers to supply that needed equipment.
That was the case for Phillips, who said that he had an old walker that was worn out, but he was not yet eligible to receive a new one.
“Medicaid purchased my walker,” he explained, “but walkers don’t last five years, not if you use it all the time like I do. So I told Susie about it and I received another one until I was eligible for a new walker.”
Being a consumer himself of UCP services, Phillips is familiar with the issues and needs of those seeking assistance.
He found himself dropping by the UCP office to help when computer issues needed some technical assistance. After Thompson became the executive director, she realized that Phillips could be even more of an asset to the organization. When the position of resource development coordinator came open, he was hired. Now, in addition to being the first face that many people see when they walk into the new UCP office location at 1400 Hulman St., Phillips also helps organize fundraisers and puts together the tenant correspondence.
“Without UCP, I would not be functioning as independently as I am,” Phillips said. “I would definitely not be as happy as I am, especially at work. I help people find housing. I help people find adaptive toys. I help people find a piece of medical equipment that they need. And, I think I’ve been a good listener. Sometimes we have people who just need someone to talk to about the bad day they’re having or their difficulties, and I can do that. I feel as if I am a friend to all our consumers.”
UCP has 24 houses built to be adapted for people with disabilities. Four of the houses are three-bedroom residences built within the last year. All of the homes have been built in partnership with the Terre Haute Housing Authority and the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission. Independent living is also available in the 12 units of the Bell Building on Poplar Street, and in the apartments on Hulman Street. There is a waiting list for housing, but there is not a lot of turnover among tenants.
One upcoming fundraiser that UCPWV is promoting is a telethon set for 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 on WTHI-TV. Viewers can call in to make pledges and bid on auction items. The telethon is one of the major fundraisers for UCP, as is the annual Barstool Open and the Shadow Asylum.
For more information about United Cerebral Palsy of the Wabash Valley, go online to www.ucpwv.org. or call 812-232-6305.
For more information on the United Way of the Wabash Valley, go online to www.uwwv.org or call 812-235-6287.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter