We've known Executive Director, Susan Rotchy, for some time now, so when NorCal SCI co-founder, Nick Struthers, made the trip to the Concord office of the Independent Living Resources of Solano and Contra Costa Counties, it gave us a chance to sit down and learn more about the work of her three offices.
Susan was injured in an automobile accident and is uniquely qualified to lead the center's efforts from three offices in Concord, Antioch and Fairfield, serving over 65,000 people with disabilities. One of the neat things about ILR is that four of its staff members have spinal cord injury. They work closely with area hospitals and rehab centers caring for new patients with SCI and part of that work may involve providing temporary use of durable medical equipment such as shower or commode chairs, manual and power wheelchairs, mainly to provide that individual with these resources until they acquire their own given the long time it takes for this equipment to get processed.
The staff also meets with such individuals to educate them about the range of public assistance programs such as In-Home Support Services, Assistive Technology, accessible housing options, getting them back to school or work and to encourage them that life does go on.
Finding accessible housing, like in much of the Bay Area, is nearly impossible unless the person is willing to move further out to rural communities. But one of the key areas they promote and work with individuals on is working through the Department of Rehabilitation that would allow the person to go back to school and/or seek out new skills or simply going back to their previous job and assisting in making their workplace more accessible.
ILR also collaborates with other Independent Living Centers to help new clients navigate the maze of various public assistance programs as well as with schools and colleges in the area. Her defining statement of "if we don't know the answer, we'll go find it" underscores the center's dedication to serving its clients.
Another area that represents major challenges to the disabled community involves finding affordable caregivers, something that grapples the entire Bay Area. With the aging population, the typical disabled people are now competing with older individuals who may not be physically disabled but that their age requires the assistance of a caregiver. And these challenges extend to ILR and other centers as well. They have a limited registry of caregivers that they can refer to their clients with most of the hourly pays ranging from $15-$20 per hour putting them, at times, out of range of most individuals in need of a caregiver.
NorCal SCI looks forward to supporting the efforts of ILR and Susan's dedicated staff.