Dawn of Hope transitioning people with disabilities out of facility, in to community

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- New rules are changing the way things are done at a place that cares for hundreds of people with disabilities in the Tri-Cities. The changes directly impact Dawn of Hope in Johnson City, which provides services for people with disabilities.

We reported in January new federal and state regulations are pushing people out of places like this and in to the community during the day. This summer, Dawn of Hope is starting to comply with these new regulations, aimed at desegregating people with disabilities and the public. If facilities don’t comply, they are in danger of losing deferral funding.

At Dawn of Hope over 200 people with a broad range of disabilities get services, from those who are able to work, to those who are non-verbal, not able to walk on their own, and who need around-the-clock care. Up until now Dawn of Hope has had a facility where people can work, and a main building where people with severe disabilities spend their day.

“Primarily they are spending their days segregated only with people with disabilities, the only people who don’t have disabilities are usually paid staff so this rule sought to address this and it guides future Medicaid funding,” Cara Kumari, spokesperson for the TN Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities said.

So to comply, Dawn of Hope has been getting people out of their facilities and in to public settings during the day. “Most have been positive, we have had some where individuals have basically refused to go,” Dawn of Hope Executive Director Lee Chase said.

Chase said the transition has its challenges. “From a transportation as well as a staffing prospective because typically when we take people in to the community its either a 1 to 1, 1 to 2 or maximum 1 to 3,” Chase said.

For those who are able to work, “We are trying to get them introduced to the community, job exploration, letting them look at opportunities for work,” Chase said.

But for those with severe disabilities it has proven a more difficult task. “We have been able to get some folks out, it’s still extremely challenging,” Chase said.

Representatives from DIDD will be visiting and assessing Dawn of Hope’s transition efforts on July 28th.

“We’re also going to be conducting an onsite visit of Dawn of Hope and an assessment not only of the physical location, does the structure itself segregate people from the community, but also will be looking at the activities people are taking part in in the day and do those segregate them from the community,” Kumari said.

We have talked with families whose loved ones get services from Dawn of Hope. Some are concerned that being out in the community will be a bad situation for their family member. Chase said some families are considering at-home care.

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