Sarah Sorensen, Executive Director

Sarah Sorensen, Executive Director

Report on Independence Now 2014

Sarah Sorensen, Executive Director

The holistic approach to Independent Living Services is alive and well at Independence Now. This can be showcased through a story. In the late summer of 2012 through a referral from a local Rehabilitation Hospital we first met Ali Al Haeri who was 23 years old. Initially an Independent Living Specialist was visiting him in a Nursing Facility, wherein they discussed his desire to get an apartment and move back to the community. At that point Ali was internally referred from the ILS to our Money Follows the Person Program who visited him and supported him to complete a Medicaid Wavier application for long term community supports and services. The ILS continued to work with Ali on the goals he set for himself and provided a great deal of information on issues that arose for Ali. Ali was approved for the Medicaid Wavier and was seeking housing. When the ILS found out about a housing opportunity it was forwarded to Ali, who now well versed in self advocacy took it upon himself to apply for housing and work with the management company to be able to afford the Tax Credit Unit.

It is wonderful to report that in February of this year Ali and his wife moved into an apartment in Silver Spring. After moving in Ali realized that his accessible apartment needed some modification to allow him to have the most independence possible. So he was referred by his ILS to our Home Modification and Assistive Technology program. An Environmental Assessment was completed and equipment was purchased using funds from the grant. A tub transfer system which fits in the tub and over the toilet makes it possible for him to use his bathroom without having to make costly modifications. An automatic door opener will enable him to enter and exit his apartment independently and to welcome guests into his home.

Through the past two years Ali has touched three of the major programs at Independence Now; each has served him well and supported him to make progress along his path to independence. Ali’s story showcases how integral Centers for Independent Living are in the disability community and what a difference they can make in the lives of real people seeking freedom, power and Independence Now!

Administrative Staff:

Sarah Sorensen, Executive Director

Todd Thorpe, Director of Operations

Mike Polits, Director of Finance

Travel Training

TRAVEL! When you say this word it can evoke thoughts of vacation, going to exotic places, riding in a car, bus, or train as a part of a daily commute. It can bring about feelings of excitement, anxiety and even dread. For some folks traveling can be life changing. It means greater confidence, overcoming obstacles and gaining independence. The Travel Training program at Independence Now has witnessed many feats of courage as students have overcome their fears to gain greater Independence. Ms. A is a 20 year old young woman from Prince Georges County, with a great sense of humor and greater determination. Ms. A was preparing to attend classes at the Montgomery College in the fall so we had the end of the summer to begin practicing the route from her home in Greenbelt to the Rockville Campus. Ms. A’s knowledge of riding the bus/rail system was very little when she began travel training and her trip consisted of 2 busses and 2 different trains to get her to class by 9am. Another aspect of the trip that we had to overcome was Ms. A’s slight fear of crowds and crowded places. Given the time of the morning she had to travel, this was definitely is an issue.

In 8 sessions of one-on-one Travel Training, Ms. A went from not being sure if she could achieve this goal to totally nailing the entire Metro system down. Through the travel training program Ms. A has achieved a greater level of independence allowing her not only to safely travel to her school but all over the Metro system. Seeing trainees achieve their goals is truly the best part of the job.


Trish Foley, Project DirectorDenise Sosbe, Travel TrainerBrandon Taylor, Travel Trainer

Youth Programs

In 2013 we invited 30 high school students with disabilities from all over the state to participate in the Youth Leadership Forum at Towson University. The forum took place over four days and three nights at the campus allowing the students to experience what life on a college campus will be like. The students had an action packed week learning about leadership, self-advocacy and most importantly themselves and what they want for their future.

Moving into 2014 YLF had a few changes. Kim Wihelm, former Youth Programs Coordinator, left Independence Now and Katie Carroll started in January to fill her position. YLF was also condensed to three days with only 1 over-night and will now be split between Montgomery College in Silver Spring and Towson University.

YLF alumni and a 2014 delegate did a travel training exercise to attend a Nationals Baseball Game in Washington, DC. Everyone met the travel trainers from Independence Now at the Glenmont Metro station and rode together the Nationals ball park where they got to watch a game. Everyone had of fun at the game and learned a lot about how to use the metro system and travel safely.

After many interviews and pre YLF activities we are thrilled to welcome this year’s newest YLF delegates on June 7th. The delegates will spend the day at Montgomery College learning about disability history, leadership and assistive technology. After a two week break YLF will reconvene at Towson University for two days filled with advocacy, leadership and personal development activities in addition to a few social programs. Following the three YLF days regional sessions will be held with all of the delegates to discuss additional topics related to identifying personal support systems and different styles of communication.


Katie Carroll, Youth Program Coordinator

Maryland Work Incentives Network (WIPA)

In 2013, the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project for Maryland restarted after a year hiatus. The project was reorganized to be more locally based. Under the new name of Maryland Work Incentives Network, we now subcontract WIPA services to most of the counties in the state. There are 4 sub-contractors who provide the bulk of the services: Full Circle Employment Solutions (covering the Baltimore vicinity and the Eastern Shore), Resources for Independence (Western Maryland), Mosaic Community Services (Carroll County), and Way Station (Howard and Frederick Counties).

The remaining counties in Maryland (Suburban and Southern MD) are being served by our own CWIC, Cindy LaBon. Cindy helps beneficiaries use work incentives to become more financially independent. Helping people become financially self-sufficient through work is the ultimate goal of WIPA. We are here to promote the idea that work is a good thing, if you understand Social Security’s rules and work incentives. We tell beneficiaries what work incentives are and help them use them to manage their benefits. This information dispels the myths surrounding work and benefits that keep so many people with disabilities in poverty.

Here is an example of the power of using work incentives: A beneficiary who receives both SSI and SSDI came to us at the beginning of his first attempt at employment in 12 years. We are helping him track his Trial Work Period and will help him use a work incentive that may help him keep his SSDI. He understands that he will not be receiving SSI cash payments while he is working and will remain eligible for Medicaid. He has been working now for 3 months, a feat that he had not been able to accomplish for 25 years.


David Mitchell, Project DirectorCindy LaBon, CWIC

Independence Now, Inc. Statements of Financial Position as of September 30, 2013

2013 / 2012
Assets / $ / $
Cash and cash equivalents / 346,698 / 312,142
Investments / 576,444 / 518,086
Grants and contracts receivable / 180,324 / 106,393
Prepaid expenses and other liabilities / 11,555 / 8,092
Property and equipment, net / 11,939 / 15,123
Total assets / 1,126,960 / 959,836
Accounts and other payables / 78,209 / 37,365
Deferred revenue / 55,997 / 28,260
Deferred rent / 17,730 / 20,119
Capital leases / 9,912 / 12,782
Total liabilities / 161,848 / 98,526
Net assets
Unrestricted / 967,977 / 844,455
Temporarily restricted / 2,139 / 21,882
Total Net Assets / 970,116 / 866,337

Independence Now, Inc.

Statements of Support, Revenue and Expenses and Changes in Net Assets Balances

As of September 30, 2013

2013 / 2012
Support and Revenue / $ / $
Support / 1,140,907 / 1,239,684
Revenue / 61,351 / 65,075
Total support and revenue / 1,202,258 / 1,304,759
Program services / 1,001,189 / 1,091,926
General and administrative / 97,290 / 87,555
Total expenses / 1,098,479 / 1,179,481
Changes in Net Assets / 103,779 / 125,278

Independent Living Services

Independence Now has provided independent living (IL) services to 383 consumers with disabilities who live in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties during this annual reporting year. Through the provision of IL Core services consumers received assistance with achieving their self-directed goals.

Mr. C is 43 years old and blind. He began receiving IL Services in January 2013. He was a resident of a Nursing Facility and with the assistance of IN’s IL and MFP staff; he transitioned from the Nursing Facility to his own housing in the community. After his transition IL Staff assisted him by advocating to Disability Organizations, provided Support Services, Peer Support and continuing services which supports Mr. C in successfully living independently in the community.

Ms. J.T is 52 years old and has depression and an orthopedic knee condition. She has been a consumer since March 2011. She has actively worked with IL Specialist to achieve her goals and applied for and obtained affordable apartment in 2012. This inspired her to seek renting a house, which she accomplished in September 2013. During 2013-2014, she has worked with staff who have advocated on her behalf that has allowed her to obtain energy assistance and obtain new furniture to make her home livable.

Mr. V is 30 years old and has bipolar disorder. When he began receiving IL Services in April 2013, he had many challenges. He was living at home with his parents and his two children. His parents were financially providing for Mr. V and his two children even though he was working a part-time job. His parents were paying for all health and prescription costs as well as food and clothing. Mr. V was not paying any rent. This arrangement was difficult for all relationships involved. Through peer counseling, advocacy, independent living skills training and information and referral provided by his IL Specialist, Mr. V was able to obtain assistance with his prescriptions and receive Medicaid and Food Stamps. This has relieved his family of much financial responsibility and has improved the relationships. Mr. V has taken on his challenges with determination and is working towards further gainful employment.

Total of Events: 17 Hours: 39.25 Attendees: 113

•Housing Informational Seminars

•Employment Workshop

•Transportation Action Group (TAG)

•Nursing Home Transition: Let’s Get Together

•Getting Your Act Together: Know Your Rights

•Dinner & Movie/Creative Cooking Class & Advocate’s Theater combined

•No Excuses InNow

Due to inclement weather during this reporting year many events were canceled or had poor attendance. However, IL staff continued building new relationships through outreach and planned new events. They have continued collaborating with current agencies, companies and churches in order to provide quality service for consumers. Consumers’ individualized self-directed goals were accomplished and consumers began new goals. Our department will focus on more direct consumer service, outreach and housing initiatives in the coming year.


Deborah Jackson, DirectorKelvin Hawkins, Independent Living Specialist

Rochelle Harrod, Independent Living Specialist

Shannon Minnick, Independent Living Specialist

Annual Independent Living Highlights

249 Consumers served in Prince George’s County975 Peer Counseling Services Provided

144 Consumers served in Montgomery County107 Outreach/education sessions

351 IL Skills Training and Life Skills Training3330 Information and Referral Services Provided

460 Advocacy/Legal Services

Money Follows the Person

Money Follows the Person (MFP) in Maryland is a statewide program with the purpose of aiding Medicaid eligible nursing facility residents to transition from institutional living to community living. Our Peer Support Partners, who have experience with institutional settings, conduct outreach and support at 48 nursing facilities in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties. Three main components of Independence Now’s MFP Program include:

•Peer Outreach: Peers attend social events at nursing facilities, resident and family council meetings and visit room-to-room. This level of outreach does not need a specific resident referral from Medicaid and is provided to any resident, regardless of guardianship status or competency status.

•Peer Support: Peers meet one-on-one with nursing facility resident and family or friends (if requested by resident) to assist resident with navigating tasks related to transitioning to community. This service must be goal-focused and be related to exploration of or planning for move into the community.

•Options Counseling: This service is available to nursing facility residents and provides detailed information about Medicaid and other home and community based long term supports and services.

Additionally, building and maintaining relationships with the nursing facility staff, ombudsman, and local MAP offices are integral to the success of this program.

In 2014 MFP instituted programmatic changes. Maryland previously operated three Medicaid programs that served individuals who need personal assistance services. In January 2014, these programs were transitioned to the Community Options Waiver and Community First Choice. There have been positive forthcoming results from this transition including consistent policies across programs as well as a streamlined application process. In addition, Independence Now has received more demand for Peer Outreach and Support than ever before!


Meredith Raymond, Director of Nursing Facility OutreachJackie Littleford, Peer Support Partner

Carlos Garner, Peer Support PartnerMichael Saunders, Peer Support Partner

Assistive Technology

Independence Now receives funding from DORS for modifications to the homes and vehicles of eligible consumers with significant disabilities. Often these modifications can mean the difference between remaining independent in one’s own home versus having to reside in a facility. The home modifications are for improving access to the home, access to the bathroom, and access within the residence. In the past year we have funded ramps, vertical wheelchair lifts, stair lifts, railings on stairways, and safety railings in bathrooms for nearly 40 consumers.

After living in Florida for a while, Ms. K and her mother moved back to Riverdale to live with her grandmother. Ms. K gets around in a power wheelchair and lift that had been installed at the front door when she first lived there, however now it needed to be repaired. At 17, Ms. K was stuck in the house unless someone carried her out. The school system sent teachers to her home, but she was anxious to make friends at her new high school.

With the grant money and a contribution from the family, IN funded the repair of the lift. Ms. K can now not only catch the bus to school, but she attends activities with her new friends from People On the Go.

Mr. L’s family was referred to IN by Maryland Access Point of Prince George’s County. He had been in an automobile accident and now had a spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury. At the time of the phone call, Mr. L was being bathed in bed and was looking for a way to get a shower. Though the family requested that the tub be removed and a shower installed to accommodate a shower chair, IN recommended a TubBuddy, a transfer system that enables him to use the existing bathtub. This option was much less expensive and much less disruptive to the home than remodeling the bathroom. With the funding from the grant and a contribution from the family, IN purchased the TubBuddyand Mr. L can now have privacy while showering.

Staff: Trish Foley, Director of Community Programs

Independence Now’s Board of Directors:

Robert Watson, President, Prince George’s County

Cindy Buddington, Vice-President, Montgomery County

Regina Lee, Secretary, Prince George’s County

Justin Campbell, Treasurer, Prince George’s County

Sarah Allan, Montgomery County

Michael Fitzpatrick, Montgomery County

Don Gilchrist, Montgomery County

Timothy Hairston, Prince George’s County

David Johnson, Montgomery County

Sandra Sermons, Montgomery County