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Mercer agency opens office



Published: Sun, November 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Helping individuals with physical disabilities remain in their own homes is the group's primary focus.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Community Resources for Independence Inc. (CRI) has opened a new Mercer County office, but the nonprofit agency says its goal here is to put itself out of business.

That's because a local group, Helping People with Disabilities (HPD), a Mercer County advocacy group, is working to take over the services provided by CRI -- helping handicapped people in their homes -- and CRI is helping, said Timothy Finnegan, executive director.

Finnegan was on hand for the open house at CRI's new office at 3875 E. State St. two weeks ago and said his group, based in Erie, is working with HPD to be the local service provider for the county.

The process could be completed within two or three years, said Vivian LaCamera of Hermitage, HPD president.

It won't be totally independent but will likely be a branch of CRI, she said.

Grants: Her agency recently received a pair of $5,000 grants to get started, one coming from the Developmental Disabilities Council of Pennsylvania and the other directly from CRI, LaCamera said.

The group is looking for additional grants to make the effort a reality, she said, noting it has 10 to 15 active members now.

Finnegan said CRI's primary business is "attendant home care," a service funded largely by the state.

Living assistance: It involves helping people with physical disabilities to live independently, which includes assisting with shopping or housework, meal preparation, bathing and even transferring from a bed to a wheelchair or motor vehicle.

The client determines his or her plan living plan and CRI helps implement it, providing only as much assistance as the client wants, Finnegan said.

The service can be free, if the client's income is less than $1,350 a month.

They have to pay a service fee, again based on income, if they earn more than that, Finnegan said, but the maximum fee is $100 a month.

People making as much as $40,000 a year could still be eligible for attendant care, he said.

CRI also offers a variety of federally funded services, including peer counseling advocacy, coordination of services and independent living skills training, Finnegan said.

It has a medical supply service and can even help build ramps and other building access systems to enable people to stay in their own homes rather than be required to go into a nursing home, he said.

CRI, run by a board of volunteers, serves 1,400 people in 28 Pennsylvania counties, including 85 in Mercer County.




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