Scott Burlingame, Executive Director
As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day 2016, I have
been spending some time thinking about the price of independence for people
with disabilities. It can be really hard to put a quantifiable number on how
much people with disabilities who live independently in the community save
society, because you often time find yourself trying to show they are not
taking advantage of services and assistance that they may not need, and almost
certainly don’t want. However, after a
lot of thought, I have decided, rather than determining a cost of independence,
I should spend a little time contemplating about the cost of dependence.
The price of “dependence” can be easy to measure. To start with the cost of being dependent on
Nursing Home care in the state of North Dakota is very expensive. North Dakota Nursing Homes cost, on average,
over $100,000 per year for every person who lives in them. During the past five
years, the cost for nursing home care has increased at more than 8% per year.
The cost is also very high if you are living in a group home or some other type
of institutional setting.
If you are a person with a disability who is unemployed, the
cost of dependence can be measured in the cost of economic support programs, SSI
or SSDI, SNAP benefits, housing assistance, and perhaps most importantly, the
fact that you are not contributing to the tax rolls through employment based
The non-economic costs of being “dependent” can also be very
high. There is a direct correlation between how expensive a service is and how
little control you have over your life. This cost can be measured in lack of
self-determination, lack of hope, and overall feeling that your opinions and
values are inconsequential to the system in which you live. For this very
reason people who are dependent are often more likely to become depressed and
have shorter lives than people who live independently.
The cost for dependency is extraordinary high.
The cost for independence is a lot less. Home and Community
based services can both save the state money and help people remain
independent. According to a study done by the College of Nursing and Health
Innovation, Arizona State University, services provided in the home saved on
average $1,591.61 per month over the same services provided in a nursing home
Every time a person with a disability becomes gainfully employed;
they begin the process of leaving a life of poverty behind. This means more
reliance on money they earn and less reliance on assistance. They also become taxpayers, adding money to
the public rolls rather than taking money from it.
The ultimate way living independently saves money is when
people never become dependent in the first place. Studies have shown that when
students with disabilities leave school properly prepared, they are less likely
to ever end up in a nursing home or to become chronically unemployed. They are
given a real chance of leaving a life of poverty and economic assistance
Now I always make it a point to be very clear that I do
think that many people, at some point in their lives may need to move into some
sort of a nursing facility or perhaps take advantage of economic assistance
programs. Those systems are set up for good reason and are extraordinarily important
to the continuum of care in North Dakota.
However, those programs and services should always be
programs of last resort, and no person should ever be forced to take advantage
of them if better alternatives exist.
At Independence, Inc. we do not work for free, and every day
I work very hard to ensure we are good stewards of the dollars entrusted to us
to spend. I am proud to say our staff
have continually helped more and more people achieve their independent living
goals, and in doing so; we have significantly reduced the cost of dependence.